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The Spirit of the 

Emma B. Miles 





Copyright, 1905, by James Pott & Co. 

First Impression, October, igos. 


s a 

The Author wishes to thank Messrs. 
Harper & Brothers for permission to 
reprint the chapter entitled, Some Real 
American Music, which appeared in 
Harper's Magazine, for June, 1904. 

CHAPTER L— The Log Church School 


Describing a typical school in the mountains, 

and a few of the children attending .... I 

CHAPTER II.— Cabin Homes 

Showing the daily life, the primitive habits . 
and customs of the mountaineers ij 

CHAPTER III. — Grandmothers and Sons 

Sketch of an old couple and of a young one. 
A study of relations between man and 
woman, showing incidentally the pe- 
culiar respect accorded to old women . . 36 

CHAPTER IV.— Neighbors 

A study of relations between man and 
man. Simplicity of social laws; absence 
of class distinction. Feuds due to the 

clan spirit 71 



CHAPTER V.— The Savage Strain 


Their peculiarities partly accounted for by 
the long association with the Cherokee. 
Story of a lost mine, illustrating some 
singular characteristics 83 

CHAPTER VI.— Supernatural 

Ghost tales, witch tales, signs and omens — 

and tlie moon! 98 

CHAPTER VII.— The Old-time Religion 

Character sketch of a mountain preacher and 
his zvork. Description of foot-washing, 
baptizing and kindred ceremonies. Then 
the deeper side — the principles under- 
lying the mountaineer's beliefs and 
habits of thought 119 

CHAPTER VIII.— Some Real American 

Folk-song; religious music: the fiddle, the 
banjo, and the dance. Influence of old 
ballads on native composition 146 



CHAPTER IX.— The Literature of a Wolf- 


The vernacular a true dialect. Native 
rhymes, tales, hymns, and proverbs. 
The mountaineer's Mother Goose. Ten- 
dencies and possible development of this 
literature 172 

CHAPTER X.— Conclusion 

Influence of contact with civilization on the 
mountaineers. What ought to be done 
about it: — same practical suggestions 
for the development of this people: — 
how to help them in the right way. ... 190 




ON King's Creek there is a log house of one 
large pen that is schoolhouse, church and 
town hall, all in one, and thus easily the most 
important building in the district. From its 
door one looks across the slope of the Robbins 
farm to the "breaks" of King's Creek gulch. 
A similar slope on the opposite side displays the 
farms of the two Maisey brothers lying side by 
side, both together a mere kerchief-like patch 
in the miles on rolling miles of woods. There 
are log barns and houses on both of these, and 
sometimes a smoke of cooking curls up in a blue 
scroll among the pines, where otherwise one 
would never suspect a house. These are the 
only visible signs of human habitation. One 



would say that no kind of public gathering could 
be got together in the log church. 

But, listening for a day, even for an hour, to 
the sounds that echo in this cup of the hills, one 
comes to know that life is ever present. The 
evidences are faint and far, but the ear makes 
sure of them — yodeling and calling, barking of 
dogs, crowing of cocks in the early morning. 

Listen ! — a horn is wound away off toward the 
gap. An axe rings on the crystal of a winter 
day. Some boy must needs advertise his riches 
of both ammunition and corn whiskey at once 
by several shots fired in quick succession at noth- 
ing at all. Hoofs clatter over the shale at the 
ford, far below, and sometimes the music of a 
hunt or a dancing party continues nearly through 
the night. 

Yet the most attentive hearkening would but 
poorly serve to prepare one's expectations for 
the crowd that gathers here once a month to 
attend preaching. And when a "big meeting," 
protracted indefinitely, is in progress, and the 
ox and mule teams stand hitched in the woods 



all about, while the smaller children sleep in the 
wagons, and neighbors enjoy a basket dinner to- 
gether near the big cave spring, the number 
present is amazing. 

The school, however, "fares but middling" 
in the matter of attendance. Confinement for 
an hour or two, with songs and the imminent 
expectation of somebody's "takin' a big 
through" of religious excitement to break the 
monotony, is not insupportable, but the neces- 
sity of keeping still in time of books and of ap- 
plying all one's mind to lessons that may or may 
not be about what one really wants to know, is 
a grievous yoke, indeed. The path to the school 
door is one that few care to tread, with the 
boundless forest to choose from. So it is that, 
while I am fairly sure of meeting, morning after 
morning, a faithful ten or fifteen, most of the 
children hereabout run free as the fawns and 
cubs that they often capture for playmates — as 
timid, as lithe and about as intellectual. 

Our log church stands in the forest. There 
is scarce enough space cleared around it for a 



playground. Woodpeckers drum on its roof 
in the daytime and whippoorwills sing there at 
night. Acorns drop upon it in October with 
resounding taps that startle all the little ones 
within. Its walls are laid of heavy pine timbers 
squared roughly and well notched together, the 
cracks chinked with chips driven in slantwise and 
daubed with native clay. There is no belfry. 
The door is at one end and the high pulpit at 
the other. At one side is a stone chimney, mas- 
sive as a tower, whose fireplace on cold days 
seems about to swallow the huddled school. It 
requires the strength of all the larger boys to- 
gether to bring in a backlog. When I was a 
child I remember a number of us, on the heels 
of some prank, once hid in its sooty depths from 
the wrath of the teacher, much as the Indians 
took shelter in Nickojack from the pursuing 
forces of Sevier. How could we have kept 
school without the aid of that hospitable cavern? 
We roasted nuts in it, and potatoes and apples, 
and pigs' tails, brought from home. We even 
boiled eggs there in a tin bucket when Mis' Rob- 



bins' old blue hen obligingly stole her nest under 
the floor. We watched the sparks fly up the 
chimney when we should have been studying; 
we told fortunes, making and naming marks 
in the ashes. And oh, the visions we saw in 
its smoke, the futures we painted in its ruddy 
coals ! 

Still it stands, the mighty chimney, and now 
it is I who must sometimes chase the little fel- 
lows, laughing and squealing, into its dark re- 
cess and out again. With so few pupils little 
discipline is necessary, and we often spend the 
hot afternoons of September outside, with our 
books — old McGuffey readers, blue-back spell- 
ers, Testaments or whatever comes to hand, scat- 
tered about on the ground. If the young minds 
wander afield with the scampering and flitting 
of little brothers of tree-top and burrow, what 
matter? Perhaps they learn at such times some- 
thing not to be found between the covers of 

As for that, our study is never confined to the 
text-book long. The first hour of our day is 



devoted to reading in four classes of different 
grades, the second to arithmetic in three. Then 
we spend about thirty minutes in drawing maps 
and talking about the country represented, a 
primitive method of studying geography, but 
the best possible in default of more expensive 
books. Next we write, either a spelling lesson 
or a composition on some outdoor subject, until 
it is time for the noon "ree-cess." Dinner, eaten 
in the shade outside, is over in a few minutes, 
and then playtime scatters the little folks 
through the woods, making playhouses and 
bending down saplings for "ridey-hosses," until 
it is time to recall them by rapping on the door 
with a stick, as if the hollow house were a giant 
drum. The afternoon is very much like the 
morning, except that there is a class in such 
grammar as we can manage without text-books. 
Last of all, I give them something to take home 
with them, to think over and dream about — an 
object-lesson, a story, a poem, or a simple talk 
on some bit of natural science. 

This is our regular programme, but it has 


many and frequent variations. Sometimes, in- 
stead of calling the primary arithmetic class, I 
set the little ones to playing "Hull-gull, hand- 
full, how many?" That teaches them as much 
addition and subtraction as they would be likely 
to get by figuring on a slate. Or perhaps all the 
slates are brought out at once for such a draw- 
ing lesson as may assist the girls in designing 
their own blocks of patchwork. Or the whole 
school becomes drowsy, and can best be re- 
freshed by learning a song. Old hymns, "O for 
a Faith That Will Not Shrink," "When I Sur- 
vey the Wondrous Cross," are quite as new in 
this part of the world as "Recessional" or "The 
Palms," and far more acceptable to the home 
folks, who soon learn them from the children. 
There are some kindergarten songs, too, 
that are greatly enjoyed; "I Have a Lit- 
tle Shadow" is a favorite. But they wake 
to their brightest under the influence of "The 
Star-Spangled Banner," "Marching Thro' 
Georgia" or "The Red, White and Blue." For 
there is not one in the school but has spent many 



a long winter evening in listening to the fathers' 
and grandfathers' tales of the war, and even the 
youngest here understands enough about taxes 
and pensions and voting well enough to feel that 
their great "gover'ment" is to be revered above 
all human things. And the older girls bring 
their knitting and sewing to school, so that 
I am able now and again to delight them 
with a new stitch or a fresh quilt pattern. Or 
the excitement of "cross-spelling" is asked for, 
an exercise in which all but the babes take 
part. Cliff Rogers has been our crack 
speller, but Jimmy Fetridge, the widow's boy, 
is making a better record every week. Some 
Friday afternoon he will turn Cliff down, and 
then we can soon challenge the school yon side 
the creek to spell against us. 

When in November the low clouds roll across 
the mountain, darkening until not even the most 
experienced housewife can tell when it is time 
to set up dinner for her men-folks, we put the 
books away entirely and hear over and over 
again the tales we love best. Sometimes the 


children, too, tell stories from the Bible or real 
local occurrences in the time of the Indians, or of 
the war, or curious adaptations of Cherokee tra- 

And on the Friday before the third Sunday 
in each month we sweep the floor and the yard, 
fill the fireplace with boughs of autumn leaves, 
branches of blossoming dogwood or azalea, 
fronds of cinnamon fern, or whatever is most 
beautiful in the woods at the time, and make the 
place tidy for Sunday's preaching. Then we 
"speak pieces" the rest of the afternoon. Our 
choice of these is limited to the contents of 
Webster's Speller and the McGuffey Readers, 
supplemented by the little copy of the "Child's 
Garden of Verses" it is my good fortune to own, 
so that we are sure of hearing the same good 
things pretty regularly every Friday. Some lad 
is certain to declare that in winter he gets up 
at night as earnestly as if he didn't eat two meals 
a day by lamplight almost the year round. An- 
other chooses "Come, come, come, the summer 
now is here" — only he generally pronounces it 



"summerny," and some one else starts out in a 
vigorous sing-song : 

"The lark is up to meet the sun, 
The bee is on the wing." 

However, there are occasional surprises, 
mostly traceable to the mountaineer's Mother 
Goose. "I'm got a speak, too," urged little Osee 
Rogers once, and forthwith delivered himself: 

"Hey, little boy, where'd you git your breeches? 
Daddy cut 'em out and mammy sewed the 

He was mortally offended by the shout that 
went up when he had finished. 

The children are of all sizes, ranging from 
the wee ones too little even to say their a-b-abs, 
and only sent to school because, unless they are 
kept out of mother's way, sister will have to 
stay at home to help, to the big boys who were 
expected by their mates to run every teacher out 


of school — with open knives, if necessary. I do 
not know why I have never had any serious 
trouble with these last. It is strange that the 
unconquerable chief of this group should pre- 
serve, outwardly, the most correct behavior. He 
is seventeen, a true mountaineer, and has, I be- 
lieve, a future before him, but I should be re- 
lieved at present to have him off my mind. He 
made it clear at the outset, in a fashion that 
perplexes me still, that he would have nothing 
more intimate than armed peace between him 
and the teacher. School had been going on for 
nearly a week, when old man Robbins knocked 
at the door to ask that I keep the children from 
running over his potato patch. Now, this was 
a reasonable request enough, and I spoke to the 
school about it at once. The mere mention of a 
wish on the teacher's part was sufficient for the 
majority. But this boy — merely, I believe, to 
see what would come of it, although his family 
may very possibly have some grudge against old 
man Robbins — leaped the fence next recess and 
walked deliberately into the potato field and out 



again. A reprimand brought no response what- 
ever from him, although he seemed not at all 

"Cliff," I asked, "if you were the teacher, 
what would you do with such a boy?" 

"I'd whup him," he answered, brightening. 

"But you are too old to whip. Suppose, now, 
you apologize, and tell the school you won't do 
it again?" 

He faced about and stood fumbling his hat a 
moment ; then he concocted a little speech which 
I am sure furnished its maker with some satis- 
faction. He enjoyed what he was pleased to 
consider the joke on himself and on me. 

"Can't you say you are sorry you did it?" I 

"Why," replied he, "I reckon I could, but I 
d'know as I am!" 

We both laughed. "Well, Cliff," said I, "if 
you've sufficiently aired your independence, you 
may go to your seat." 

He has never repeated the offense, nor has he 
ever committed any overt act of rebellion. But 



now and again he feels it necessary to give an 
unexpected dig of his independence into the ribs 
of his teacher, just by way of assuring himself 
that he could be a free man if he wanted to. I 
am certain that I have no better friend in the 

All the children in the district are related by 
blood in one degree or another. Our roll-call 
includes Sally Mary and Cripple John's Mary 
and Tan's Mary, all bearing the same surname ; 
and there is, besides, Aunt Rose Mary and 
Mary- Jo, living yon side the creek. There are 
the different branches of the Rogers family — 
Clay and Frank, Red Jim and Lyin' Jim and 
Singin' Jim and Black Jim Rogers — in this dis- 
trict, their kin intermarried until no man could 
write the pedigree or ascertain the exact rela- 
tionship of their offspring to each other. This 
question, however, does not disturb the children 
in the least. They never address one another 
as cousin ; they are content to know that Uncle 
Tan's smokehouse is the resource of all in time 
of famine; that Aunt Martha's kind and strong 


hands arc always to be depended on when one 
is really ill ; that Uncle Filmore plays the fiddle 
at all dances, and Uncle Dave shoes all the 
mules owned by the tribe. 

'Lectar Fetridge's children come in the morn- 
ing from a cabin two miles away, with their 
scant dinner in a strong basket woven of white- 
oak splints. If the little feet grow tired, the ten- 
year-old mother-sister of the group cuts a stick- 
horse that prances gayly over the remaining dis- 
tance with no thought of fatigue. She has all 
the pathetic humility and patience of a saintly 
grandmother, this child, and endures cold and 
hunger as a matter of course. Always she turns 
with her soft, shining smile and asks me to 
"come go home with her," the last thing before 
quitting the school doorstep. And poor 'Lectar 
is always so glad of company ! 

Coming back from the spring to-day I espied 
a little figure waiting beside the path, its arms 
folded, its face very stern, with chin up and eye- 
brows down — the personification of dignity at 
the mature age of seven. 



"Waiting for me, Osee?" I inquired. 

He was, but would not own it. "Thought 
I'd 'ist see if there's goin' to be any wild 
grapes," he said; and a few minutes after, stalk- 
ing beside me: "Mother said tell ye to come 
home with us to-night and fix to stay a week or 


So he waits again in the evening with the 
same ostentation of nonchalance, preserving his 
dignity until the last pair of bare feet have pat- 
tered down the path. Then he is fain to walk 
beside his teacher, prattling very much like any 
other child of the good things mother is going 
to have for supper and of the pigs in his father's 

"I'm got free little chickens," he tells me, 
"and one urn's a pullet — or a hen, I do' know 

But he stiffens perceptibly inside of his little 
homespun roundabout and breeches as we ap- 
proach the log house in the orchard which is his 
home; and by the time his sister, that represen- 
tative of the frankly emotional and inferior sex, 



has run out to meet us with her pet rooster in 
her arms, he is all mountaineer again. 

"Milly," he tells her, "I wisht you'd tell 
mother to hurry up supper. I'm 'ist goin' down 
to the barn with father and the boys." 

Even his mother laughs as she comes to the 
door, her toil-worn, wistful face seaming into 
fine wrinkles of amusement at his baby airs. 

"Does he ever want you to rock him to sleep ?" 
I wonder, watching the sturdy little legs tramp 
off to the barn. 

"Oh, when he's sick or tired he's right glad 
to be my little boy for a while," she answers. 
"But he's always a growed-up man ag'in he 
wakes up in the morning." 




"Poor people has a poor way." 

SOLITUDE is deep water, and small boats 
do not ride well in it. Only a superficial 
observer could fail to understand that the moun- 
tain people really love their wilderness — love it 
for its beauty, for its freedom. Their intimacy 
with it dates from a babyhood when the thrill 
of clean wet sand was good to little feet; when 
u frog-houses" were built, and little tracks were 
printed in rows all over the shore of the creek; 
when the beginnings of aesthetic feeling found 
expression in necklaces of scarlet haws and head- 
dresses pinned and braided together of oak 
leaves, cardinal flowers and fern; when bear- 
grass in spring, "sarvices" and berries in sum- 



mer and muscadines in autumn were first sought 
after and prized most for the "wild flavor, " the 
peculiar tang of the woods which they contain. 

I once rode up the Side with a grandmother 
from Sawyers' Springs, who cried out, as the 
overhanging curve of the bluff, crowned with 
pines, came into view: "Now, ain't that finer 
than any picter you ever seed in your life? — and 
they call us pore mountaineers ! We git more 
out o' life than anybody." 

The charm and mystery of bygone days 
broods over the mountain country — the charm 
of pioneer hardihood, of primitive peace, of the 
fatalism of ancient peoples, of the rites and 
legends of the aborigines. To one who under- 
stands these high solitudes it is no marvel that 
the inhabitants should be mystics, dreamers, 
given to fancies often absurd, but often wildly 

Nothing less than the charm of their stern 

motherland could hold them here. They know 

well enough that elsewhere they might sit by 

the flesh-pots. Occasionally a whole starved-out 




family will emigrate westward, and, having set- 
tled, will spend years in simply waiting for 
a chance to sell out and move back again. All 
alike cling to the ungracious acres they have so 
patiently and hardly won, because of the wild 
world that lies outside their puny fences, because 
of the dream-vistas, blue and violet, that lead 
their eyes afar among the hills . . . 

The site of a cabin is usually chosen as near 
as possible to a fine spring. No other advan- 
tages will ever make up for the lack of good 
water. There is a strong prejudice against 
pumps; if a well must be dug, it is usually left 
open to the air, and the water is reached by 
means of a hooked pole which requires some 
skillful manipulation to prevent losing the 
bucket. Cisterns are considered filthy; water 
that has stood overnight is "dead water," hardly 
fit to wash one's face in. The mountaineer takes 
the same pride in his water supply as the rich 
man in his wine cellar, and is in this respect a 
connoisseur. None but the purest and coldest 



of freestone will satisfy him; chalybeate, which 
the city people make so much of, is no favorite, 
except as an iron water spring or well is believed 
never to go dry. 

Pure air is prized as highly as pure water, 
and a cabin door is always open, save at night 
or during the worst weather. This, with the 
cracks and "cat-holes" where the chinking falls 
out, naturally renders windows superfluous, and 
they are rarely found in the older houses. 

Of course, many habits of cabin life would 
seem uncleanly to dwellers in a better civiliza- 
tion. But this existence is nearly as primitive 
as that of the Dark Ages, and primitive life is 
necessarily dirty, if for no other reason than 
that it is lived close to the ground. Nearness to 
the soil is not so much a mere figure of speech 
as we are apt to imagine. If you will think, you 
will see that this must be so. 

When a man has not only the living to pro- 
vide, but many of his farm implements and much 
of his furniture — tables, chairs, axe-helves, 
bread-bowls, cupboards, cradles, even looms and 



wagons to make with the help of a few neigh- 
bors — perhaps his own shoemaking and black- 
smithing to do, and certainly fuel to haul and 
a crop to raise — where is his time for bathing? 
Where, indeed, is his opportunity, when all win- 
ter the only room with a fire in it is crowded 
night and day? 

When the mother of his household has to pick 
and dry wild fruits; wash the wool, card, spin 
and weave it; make soap, hominy, butter, lard 
and molasses; take care of the meat when the 
men have killed and cut it up — yes, and raise 
poultry, besides all the ordinary care of a house- 
hold; when, moreover, it is a very fortunate 
wife, indeed, who does not carry a considerable 
burden of duties properly supposed to belong to 
masculine shoulders, such as bringing wood and 
water, milking, and raising garden — with all 
this, oh, dear! how can she comb her hair every 

And when, in addition to the endless toil, the 
land from which the living must be wrung is 
"so poor it wouldn't hardly raise a fight" — thus 



enforcing the most petty economies of improper 
food and worn-out clothing — what wonder if 
there are not dishes enough to go around when 
company comes, and children must eat from 
their parents' plates or a wife drink from her 
husband's coffee-cup? I have seen a woman 
carry water, dress a fowl, mix bread, feed her 
cow and pick up chips all in the same big tin pan, 
simply because it was the only vessel she had; 
I have seen pies rolled out and potatoes mashed 
with a beer-bottle found in the road. 

The wonder is that they do occasionally take 
a bath ; that the cooking is frequently good ; that 
milk-jars are sunned and scalded into irreproach- 
able sweetness; that sedge-brooms are scrubbed 
to a stump every other week; that washing is 
done regularly at the spring, where, unless the 
woman has a washboard, a "battle-block" sits 
beside the tubs and the great pot mounted on a 
rude stone furnace. White sand is sometimes 
strewed on the kitchen floor and renewed from 
day to day; the iron cooking-pots and spiders 
are thoroughly burned to free them of rust and 


grease; and a barrel of lye soap is made yearly 
from wood ashes and scraps of pork waste. 
Lastly, the cleansing and ventilating powers of 
an open wood fire must be known to be appre- 

Salt pork is the mountaineer's standby, and 
the dripping fried out of it is his butter, his 
syrup, his oil. Sometimes this grease is eaten 
clear, the biscuits being dipped into it, but it is 
more often made into a "white gravy" with 
milk and flour. But the poorest have not even 

When any member of the family is taken ill 
the first article of food thought of is an egg, but 
it is usually fried to the consistency of leather 
before it reaches the invalid. Babies from the 
first month are fed on anything they will swal- 
low — grease, sugar or strong coffee. If you 
object, the mother points with pride to her 
sturdy older children, never reflecting that in 
such a severe weeding-out only the well nigh in- 
vulnerable survive. Nor are the mountaineers 
aware that they have, as a people, the worst 



stomachs in the world, for dyspepsia in its va- 
rious form is called, in nine cases out of ten, 
either consumption or heart disease — a moun- 
taineer would be ashamed to succumb to any- 
thing less serious. 

Civilization is not likely soon to remedy this 
evil, since it substitutes drugged whiskey for 
their own moonshine, and badly compounded 
plugs for home-grown "scrip" tobacco. It also 
introduces cheap baking powders and the sali- 
cylic acid which is so dangerously convenient in 
canning fruit. 

Yet, though we violate every rule of hygiene, 
we are a strong people, sound of wind and 
limb, making light of hardship and heavy 
labor. A doctor is not thought of, except in 
cases of broken bones or actual danger of death ; 
ordinary ailments and childbirth are endured as 
a matter of course. Starvation and exposure do 
sometimes bring on real consumption, but there 
are plenty of men seventy years old who can 
farm and plow and fell trees and haul wood, and 
rule the tribe they have raised, and get drunk 



as heartily as any young buck of the new gen- 

There is a farm in Hallet's Fork where I love 
to visit. It has a charm for me quite apart from 
mere picturesqueness — it is not the artist who 
loves the country best. One of the finer phases 
of this wholesome life is the sweet hospitality 
of its people. My visit invariably extends for 
days beyond my first intention, and every hour 
is a delight. 

I hear the day begin with the twitter of birds 
— wrens that are building in the porch eaves, 
martins in their high swinging gourds, and the 
bluebirds whose four sky-colored eggs are hid 
in a hollow apple tree behind the kitchen. The 
moon, peeled down to a thin shaving, has hung 
just over the sunset, and the night has been dark, 
but at last a dim light filters through the one 
small window, showing one by one the homely 
pieces of furniture and the hanks of "spun- 
truck" and carpet rags bunched like huge ba- 
nanas on a peg in the wall. The house-mother, 



seeing the daylight, rises, and presently the shine 
of a pitch-pine blaze is dancing over the rafters 
until it shall be "put out by the sun." The stir 
of the household wakes the mother hen that 
sleeps in the woodshed, and she leads forth her 
brood with clucking and cheeping; the house-cat 
and her kittens set up a cry ; the dogs run in and 
out as soon as the latch is lifted; a flood of 
wakening sounds pour in from yard and tree- 
top ; Bess and Piedy proclaim the smarting full- 
ness of their udders, and the team lifts a raucous 
bray as the boys open the barn door. The farm 
is awake. 

Then, far away — as from another world — 
comes a different note. Faint as it is, it could 
not, were it a trumpet blast, more distinctly 
pierce the cloak of local interest. You are 
conscious of it at once, think you must have 
been deceived, listen eagerly — no, there it is 
again, unmistakable amid the conversation of 
coarser creatures — the hymn of the wood- 
thrush ! 

It thrills you awake instantly; you put the 



night from your eyes and sleep from every mus- 
cle; you are at once ready for new and brave 
work, and your mind is freed from all impuri- 
ties. The concerns of the farm, the daily round, 
seem trivial now; simple and wholesome indeed, 
but of little worth unless its meaning is rendered 
by the voice of yonder seer. 

Scarcely caught by the most attentive ear, the 
cool, pure tones ring far down the morning from 
their source in the hidden woods. On the creek 
below the farm is a laurel jungle, its banks of 
bloom delicately rose-flushed; the moccasin or- 
chid sits bowed in contemplation here, and the 
cucumber tree lifts its great honey-hearted blos- 
som to the dawn. These, one may believe, 
hearken to the message of the singer; but the 
stable and kitchen and the scratching fowls will 
have none of it. So came the prophets of old to 
a people enamored of golden idols and fat priest- 
hoods; so come great thoughts ever to the toil- 
ing world. 

Now the sun rises, stands upon the hill-top, a 
red ball in the smoke of spring clearing. The 



tabic is set out on the porch and breakfast is 
ready: hot biscuit and butter and coffee, bulk 
pork fried in slices, soggy potatoes and the in- 
evitable white gravy. At this time of year 
there is little left of the stored provender of 
last autumn, and the new spring vegetables 
have not all come in. The hard times have 
passed, but the table is still rather scantily 

When the housework is done and all the men 
of the place are away at their labor the old house 
settles to a sweet monotony that in after years 
lingers in the memory like a strain of music. 
Now the Baby would run away to aunty's were 
it not that she stands in wholesome awe of the 
old gander who patrols the creek path and hisses 
terribly. There is nothing going on. The hum 
of bees from the blossoming fruit, the shouts of 
plowboys across the fields and the ripple of the 
spring branch come pleasantly to the ear; and 
the sun shines through the one low, square-paned 
window in friendlier fashion than it uses in more 
pretentious abodes. Curtain or no curtain, is 



the light through an old log-house window ever 
garish ? How it warms the rich, sombre, smoky 
tones of the interior, and fills the rafters with 
greenish reflections from the hot light on the 
grass outside ! There are three wooden four- 
poster beds in the main room, every one occu- 
pied at night, and every one covered with the 
intricately pieced and quilted comforts of which 
the humblest cabin boasts a few. There are 
also some wonderful homespun coverlets, beauti- 
ful with the dull dyes of barks, berries, copperas 
and indigo. There are three or four chairs bot- 
tomed with white-oak splints, one rocker, one 
rude table and some faded homespun rugs ; there 
is a clock on the fireboard, flanked by a bottle of 
whiskey and a box of seeds; and that is posi- 
tively all. 

. . . Flies buzz; the tall clock ticks drowsily; 
a hound pads leisurely in to lie down under the 
bed; a frying chicken (the creature called a 
"broiler" in northern and eastern communi- 
ties), camping on Baby's trail of crumbs, chirps 
querulously in the doorway. But the little girl 



has fallen asleep in the grass, and is brought in 
and laid on the bed with a cloth over her face. 
The mother is crooning over her work, some 
old ballad of an eerie sadness and the in- 
definable charm of unlooked-for minor endings, 
something che learned as a child from a grand- 
mother whose grandmother again brought it 
from Ireland or Scotland. As she bends above 
the loom, sending the shuttle back and forth, her 
voice goes on softly, interrupted by the thump 
of the batten: 

"The cuckoo's a pretty bird, she sings as she 
She brings us good tidings and tells us no lies. 

"Meeting is pleasure and parting is grief; 
And an inconstant lover is worse than a thief. 

"A thief can but rob you, and take what you 
And an inconstant lover will bring you to your 



"Your grave will consume you and turn you to 
And where is the young man a maiden can 

"O, green grows the laurel, and so does the 
rue . . ." 

The loom stands in the porch, shaded by hops 
and honeysuckle, making with the woman's fig- 
ure a cool silhouette against the sunshine. 
Thump — thump — thump ! What does she know 
of lords and ladies, of cuckoo and nightingale? 
These are mere words to the mountain people; 
they will often stop to apologize, when asked to 
sing to a stranger, for the lack of "sense" in the 
lines ; but they dare not alter a syllable ; the song 
is too anciently received. 

By-and-by it is time to prepare dinner. The 
kitchen is the oldest and the darkest portion of 
the house, a sixteen-foot pen of heavy logs that 
has stood for more than a hundred years. Its- 
walls are festooned with strings of peppers and 
dried fruit; great gourds are hung about, one 



containing lye soap, another salt, another crack- 
lings. Odd-looking utensils, these; boat-like 
bowls of maple for the kneading of bread, pig- 
gins and keelers of cedar, a wooden spurtle for 
stirring the evening kettle of mush, and a huge 
"gritter" on which green corn is grated in late 
summer for the making of "roas'n' ear" bread. 
First the oven and its lid are brought out and 
heated on the fire to be filled with corn-pones — ■ 
each oval pone with a hand-print conspicuous 
on its surface. Coals are spread underneath and 
piled upon the lid, and by the time the rest of 
the dinner is on the table the cornbread, too, is 
done. This method of baking is considered su- 
perior to any other, for meat and vegetables as 
well as for pastry and bread, since it allows 
neither steam nor flavor to escape during the 
process of cooking. 

"Sal's got a meat-skin laid away 
To grease her fryin'-pan every day." 

Into the skillet are put thickly sliced potatoes 
to be half-fried, half-stewed; the earliest cucum- 



bers and onions are sliced raw and salted; per- 
haps a pot of "wild salat" has been boiling for 
some time already, seasoned with a generous 
cube of fat pork, for "people that buy their meat 
by the quarter's worth can't eat pokeweed in 
their greens." 

Last of all, while the men are washing their 
faces at the water-shelf outside the door, a mist- 
coated pitcher of buttermilk is brought up from 
the spring-house, and a bucket of blue cold water 
with a drift upon it of corn-silk and elder-flowers 
from the field. 

Dinner is the midday event. When it is over 
the men return to their teaming in the fields and 
the women clear the table; then the house may 
drowse in the summer quiet all afternoon. A 
little breeze stirs between the open doors ; cloud- 
shadows trail across the land; on the horizon 
fragments of rainbow span a deep-gray blur or 
passing storm. . . . The loom thumps pa- 
tiently; there is an incessant murmur of water, 
wind, bees, or gentle rain — all the dreamy 
day . . , 



At last the smoke of the supper fire hovers 
over the roof, a blue veil, and the evening work 
of feeding and putting away begins — "chores" 
is not in the local vocabulary. If the old man or 
one of the boys has been to the store Baby has 
now the delicious excitement of espying his re- 
turn, running to open the barn gate and going 
through his few parcels of groceries. The chick- 
ens and guineas go to roost in the peach trees; 
the cows are milked at the gap and foaming pails 
carried back to the water-shelf; the sun is gone, 
and one lamp, with a broken chimney, is lighted 
and set on the supper-table. Far and clear in 
the dusk a whippoorwill is calling. 

Night fails. Now the red glamour of fire- 
light plays over the main room's rafters, and 
cotton is brought out and laid on the warm 
hearth for all unoccupied fingers to pick it, cast- 
ing out the seeds. This is the social hour, when 
there is time for discussion and pleasant raillery 
and the barbaric jangle of a banjo or the less 
pleasing whine of a fiddle. At eight o'clock, 
however, it is time for bed. 



So ends the day. Through the six narrow 
panes the night sky is visible, bent like a Ma- 
donna face over the slumbering earth. That in- 
effable tenderness, that enfolding peace — is it 
not the gift of nature to such simple ones as 
these ? 

Dear common things ! Memories of hours of 
spiritual exaltation do not cling to the heart like 
the mere smells of hot meadows, of rain-wet 
plowed land, of barn lofts and kitchen corners. 
No mental awakening of adolescence weaves so 
close a raiment for the spirit in the after-years 
as the musk of mother's hair, the softness of her 
worn old apron and shawl. No literature can 
knit itself into our real being like the drowsy 
afternoons at home when nothing could ever 
have happened at all — the ceaseless blinking of 
poplar leaves, the croon of chickens in the hot 
dust under the honeysuckles. For to those who 
are the true home-lovers, home lies mostly in the 
kitchen and back yard. 

Oh, the poignant sweetness, the infinite pathos 
of common things 1 




"There's more marries than keeps cold meat." 

THE best society in the mountains — that is 
to say, the most interesting — is that of 
the young married men and that of the older 
women. The young people are so shy that they 
can hardly be said to form a part of society at 
all. They are hedged with conventions and 
meet almost as formally as young Japanese. For 
example, on entering church the men are ex- 
pected to turn to the left and seat themselves, 
and the women to the right. It is permitted a 
young fellow who is avowedly out courting to 
sit beside his "gal," but I cannot imagine what 
would happen if a young woman were to place 
herself on the men's side of the house. 



After marriage something of the young man's 
shyness wears off ; he gradually loses his awe of 
the opposite sex, and even within the conventions 
he finds room for intelligent conversation. Then 
he begins to be interesting, for his twenty-odd 
years of outdoor experience have really taught 
him much. As for the woman, it is not until 
she has seen her own boys grown to be men that 
she loses entirely the bashfulness of her girl- 
hood, and the innate beauty and dignity of her 
nature shines forth in helpfulness and counsel. 

I have learned to enjoy the company of these 
old prophetesses almost more than any other. 
The range of their experience, is wonderful ; they 
are, moreover, repositories of tribal lore — tradi- 
tion and song, medical and religious learning. 
They are the nurses, the teachers of practical 
arts, the priestesses, and their wisdom commands 
the respect of all. An old woman has usually 
more authority over the bad boys of a household 
than all the strength of man. A similar reverence 
may have been accorded to the mothers of an- 
cient Israel, as it is given by all peoples to those 



of superior holiness — to priests, teachers, nuns; 
it is not the result of affection, still less of fear. 

It was Lute Purvine — "Clodpoll" — who 
brought me word that Aunt Genevy Rogers was 
about to put a coverlet into her loom. As I had 
often expressed a wish to see a really fine web 
in the process of making, she invited me to come 
and watch the very beginning of the work. 

"And she said to tell ye," added poor Clod- 
poll, "that Brother Absalom Darney's gwine to 
hold a feet-washin' at the Blue Spring Church 
a-Sunday and start a distracted meetin', and you 
can jist fix to stay with her while hit's continued 

Protracted meeting in Rogers' Cove is indeed 
an inducement, but I could not promise to ex- 
tend my visit so long. 

Early next morning I shut the cabin door and 
took my way down the mountain. The path led 
for miles through the golden dapple of May 
woods. Rain had fallen in the night, and the 
trees stood immersed in a lake of thin mist, blu- 



ish, and shot with sunbeams. Cool wet leaves 
slapped softly together at my face and hands as I 
walked, and each step jarred down a shower of 
bright drops. Scarlet azaleas flashed in each 
thicket, and the pearly buds of the wild syringa 
were opening to show the pure pale gold of their 
hearts. The little sensitive-plant caught at my 
skirt now and again and dropped its leaves in- 
stantly, bearing erect only its pretty blossoms — 
balls of rosy fluff dusted over with gold. This 
plant is here known as shame-brier or stingy- 
vine; both names are highly suggestive of its 
sudden drooping or closing and drawing back. 
On Short Creek I found clusters of laurel and 
rhododendron buds, but neither had as yet come 
into bloom. 

It was nearly noon when I turned into the 
Blue Spring road, and I hurried as well as I 
could in the warm sun, knowing that Aunt 
Genevy would be put out if I did not arrive in 
time for a warm dinner, I found her seated on 
the porch picking over a mess of "sissies," and 
she gave me her pleasant, quiet welcome without 



rising. Her daughter-in-law, Marilla, a woman 
of twenty-eight, who looks thirty-five, sent one 
of her own younger boys for a gourd of fresh 
spring water and placed a split-bottomed chair 
for me. 

Aunt Gcnevy's house has two pens of logs, 
with a covered space between that is like a third 
room, but most of the time is spent by all the 
family out on the rude but ample porch along 
the front. A kitchen was to be added to the back 
of the house, and the men — Uncle Zach Rogers 
and Rilley's husband, his oldest son — were now 
"getting out" the logs for it, which means fell- 
ing, scoring and rough-hewing the forty-odd 
eight-inch timbers required for its walls. 

"So Rilley she's come up to spend the day," 
said Aunt Gcnevy, "and she'll redd up the dishes 
a'ter dinner while I git the chain ready." 

Another visitor arrived in a few moments, a 
bare-footed woman, clad in a single faded calico 
garment. I learned that she was Mary Burns, 
and that her husband was helping with the logs. 
She sat on the edge of the porch, refusing a 



chair, as if accustomed to dropping down any- 
where. In spite of approaching maternity, to 
which she was evidently quite near, she was al- 
most beautiful. I say almost, because she was 
hardly clean and her hair had not been combed 
in weeks — perhaps not thoroughly dressed since 
she was married. 

"Air ye feelin' any better to-day, Mary?" in- 
quired Aunt Genevy. "Law, I know jist how ye 
feel. Hit shore is miser'ble. The winter John 
was born we didn't have no turnips, nor 'taters, 
nor nothin' ; the fence was so bad the hogs had 
broke in and eat 'em about all — and Zach he was 
away might' near all his time a-huntin' and 
cyard-playin' with a passel o' fool boys, and I 
had all o' my firewood to git, with jist what help 
sister Lou could give me — and Lou was jist a 
little gal then that I didn't dast hardly let go to 
the spring by herself." 

The woman replied in a monotone slower and 
sweeter even than Aunt Genevy's: "I'm glad 
hit's hot enough so'st I ain't needin' any wood. 
I git chips over thar where Gid's a-workin' to 



cook his meals ; but hit shore gits away with me 
a-packin' water up the hill from the spring." 

She looked up with a smile such as I have 
rarely seen on any but a baby's face, showing 
teeth as white and small as a child's. 

"Yes, I know how that is, too," said the old 
woman. "When Lizzie was crawlin' — she was 
my second baby, the one that died — I'd take her 
and the bucket and start, and when I got to the 
top o' the hill I'd set her on the ground and go 
down to the spring, and git her as I come back. 
I always did think, though, hit was settin' in 
them damp bushes that started her to bein' sick 
all the time. Of course, I had to git water on 
rainy days the same as any others, and I was 
afeared to leave her in the house with the fire. 
I've knowed of two babies bein' burnt to death 
while their mothers was out a-workin' . . . 
Law, I know all about children, Mary, and work, 
too. Mine was never more'n two year apart. 
Don't you lose heart, Mary; there's better days 
a-comin' for ye whenever this is over." 

She meant, as I discovered later, more than 



she said in the last sentence. It was known in 
the neighborhood that Gideon Burns, although 
not a pronounced drunkard or villain, was cruel 
to his wife beyond what is usual to mountain 
men. He never struck her, or, if he did, it 
was not known; and Mary rarely complained. 
But the sympathy of the neighbor women was 
with her, and the more experienced hoped 
that the coming of the child would work a 

Uncle Zach and the boys came in presently, 
and we all sat down to dinner round the table in 
the open entry. Rilley's three children ate with 
us, and some others I did not know, who had 
been playing about all morning. During the 
meal I noticed that Mary Burns was particu- 
larly urged to take her time and eat a portion of 
everything before her. 

"Why, do you like them pickles ?" said Aunt 
Genevy, as if surprised. "We're all tired of 
'em; I put 'em on the table and they ain't 
tetched." This was not quite true. "I'll jist 
put the rest into a bowl for ye whenever ye git 


ready to go home. Now, Rilley, don't ye let 
me forgit 'em. But don't you be in a hurry, 
Mary. I'm a-fixin' to put in some chain a'ter 
dinner, and you can stay and talk to me or Ril- 
ley, jist as you please." 

The chain had been already spooled, wound 
on corncobs, whose pith had been burned out 
with the hot iron used by many instead of an 
auger, and the first thing now was to warp it. 
We placed the cob spools in the rack, carefully 
arranging their order, according to a diagram 
or "draft" which she assured me was over a 
hundred years old; so many of dull green, so 
many of blue, so many of copperas and creamy 
white. She drew a thread from each, tied the 
ends of all the threads, and fastened the knot 
to a peg in the upper corner of the warping-bars 
leaning against the opposite wall. Next, she 
deftly interwove the first cross in the threads, 
with fingers so nimble that I could not see how 
the trick was done. Then for some time I was 
of little service as she strung the chain back and 
forth, back and forth on the bars. Presently 



Mary Burns joined us, gave us both, by way of 
greeting, her peculiarly sweet and childlike smile 
and seated herself in the doorway. 

"Hit's gittin' hot/' she complained; and pres- 
ently said: "Mis' Rogers, I hate to be so much 
trouble to you'ns, but my head's achin' so bad. 
I'd like to git your comb a while to comb my 
hair. I had a tuckin'-comb a while back — hit 
ust to be mammy's — but them hounds o' Gid's 
chawed hit up last week." 

Aunt Genevy told her where she might find 
the comb, and Mary brought it and let down her 
hair. What a web, what a cloak it spread over 
her shoulders ! So matted was it that at first one 
could not be sure of its texture. But its color 
was chestnut, glinting gold, and its length and 
weight were extraordinary. I soon saw that she 
could never untangle it alone, and went to her 
assistance. Her pain must have been excruciat- 
ing; in spite of care, handfuls came away by the 
roots. But she did not complain, and by patient 
persistence we straightened out the mouse-nests 
and witch-bridles lock by lock, until at last the 


whole mass flowed smoothly, waving around her 
beautiful face. 

Aunt Genevy was still walking slowly to and 
fro before her warp. The frame was two yards 
wide, and she stretched the gay strand three 
times across and added half a yard for "thrums," 
for eighteen feet was to be the length of her 
web. Then she would turn it back to the start- 
ing point again. 

I have seen a bust of a Roman matron, mother 
to an emperor, which, with the addition of a 
few lines deeply graven by suffering meekly 
borne, would pass for a portrait of Geneva Rog- 
ers. But I have never seen anything greatly 
resembling Mary Burns. A certain maid once 
of the village of Nazareth may have had the 
same pure, modest sweetness, but her loveliness 
was of a type belonging to another race. For 
this Mary's hair, as I have said, was rich chest- 
nut, and her eyes were blue — such a blue, soft- 
ened by lashes of a length one notices on the lids 
of children. There was little light of intelli- 
gence in those eyes, but one felt that Mary's 



capacity for doglike devotion was unlimited. Ex- 
cepting its innocence, the rich coloring of her 
face was its most striking feature. She had such 
a complexion as the first masters, knowing the 
effect of southern sun, painted without stint of 
olive and golden velvet and perfect rose. Gen- 
tleness and simplicity are characteristic of the 
faces of mountain girls. 

There are those of a genuine exquisite mod- 
esty who have never in their lives slept in a room 
apart from the men of their household. But this 
was a child's face, with a child's ignorance be- 
hind its lovely mask, a child's readiness to flash 
into smiles at the least provocation, a face that 
ought surely to have met only with tenderness 

And with all her beauty she had not even the 
mountain woman's poor best of cheap calico to 
wear ! I tried to imagine her dressed in a white 
dimity such as young girls wear in more favored 
regions, but even this seemed incongruous, al- 
though she could not have been more than seven- 
teen years old. As we coiled and fastened her 



hair I asked if she were going to the feet-wash- 
ing, knowing how dear to the mountaineer heart 
is the privilege of attending every form of relig- 
ious service. 

"I reckon not," she answered, in her sweet, 
hushed, nun-like tones. "I ain't been to church 
sence my shoes wore out, some time last March." 
So she had trodden the freezing mud of early 
April with bare feet ! It would never have oc- 
curred to her to hide her poverty or her present 
physical distress ; she hardly realized that in this 
respect, also, she was ill-used by her husband. 

At last the whole quantity of chain was drawn 
off the spools and doubled in one mass of six 
hundred threads nineteen and a half feet in 
length. This Aunt Genevy, having first care- 
fully wrapped and tied the precious "cross" that 
preserves the pattern, looped up, loop within 
loop, until it lay at her feet in a great braid 
thicker than a man's arm. 

Next we approached the loom itself and 
cleared it of the thrums that remained of her 
last web. Aunt Genevy then carried the big coil 



of chain to the back of the loom, loosened one 
end and spread it, securing the cross, on a 
wooden stake which she braced firmly against 
some sturdy little pegs let into the beam. Next 
the rake was hung immediately in front of the 
beam ; this is a temporary affair which serves 
to keep the threads untangled, each "bout" of 
twelve threads being slipped separately between 
its wooden teeth. 

Now we were ready to "beam" the warp. At 
first Aunt Genevy turned the heavy beam, and 
I, crouching behind the loom, held the strands 
taut as they uncoiled and spread themselves 
evenly on the slowly revolving beam, the rake 
combing them out like hair. We changed places 
as we tired. In spite of precaution, a tangle 
would arise at almost every turn of the beam, 
and often a thread would snap, and the broken 
ends have to be diligently sought out and tied, 
for an error of a thread or two here meant a 
flaw in the finished pattern. It was slow work, 
and required some patience, but at last the whole 
eighteen feet was wound on the beam, all but 



the half yard or so that she left dangling over 
the rake. 

"There, now!" I cried, triumphantly, "the 
great job's done." 

"Oh, no," was the cheerful reply, "the great 
job's puttin' hit through them harness-eyes, and 
then after that they've got to go through the 
sley, one by one." 

She lifted the rake now and laid it across the 
top of the loom, and then thrust a couple of thin 
laths, "bout-sticks," through the cross. It was 
now time to go about the night-work. There 
were the cows for Aunt Genevy to milk, and sup- 
per to cook for the men (all cooking, it would 
seem, is done "for the men"), and a hen was 
just hatching in the stable. Marilla and her 
brood were about departing, and Mary Burns 
had already taken her way along the short-cut 
that crossed the fields. 

"Cain't ye stay the night?" was the inevitable 

invitation. And, when Rilley persisted in her 

refusal, "Well, cain't ye come back to-morrow, 

then? Anyhow, we'll all go together to the 



feet-washin' a-Sunday. You come up afore sup- 
per; hit'll commence by early candle-lightin,' and 
we'll want to take a soon start." 

"How'd ye git on with your weavin', 
mother ?" inquired Uncle Zach, as he came in 
to get the wash-pan. A young married man 
never owns to the least interest in women's work, 
but a patriarch like Zachariar Rogers, whose 
dignity is too well assured to suffer through 
trivial lapses, may display anything short of 
affection toward his old woman, if he likes. He 
may even assist in the cooking. 

"Right well," was her answer. "That chain 
beamed easier and went on better than any I've 
put in the loom this year." 

I had thought it was a fearful tangle, and I 
am accustomed to handling yarn and carpet 
spun-truck, too. I began to realize why the 
mountain women are reluctant to part with 
homespun coverlets at any price. But, indeed, 
as Aunt Genevy had promised, worse was to 

Next morning a commotion in the road 



brought me to the window. A man on a mule, 
riding without bridle or saddle, was scaring all 
the pigs and chickens round the barn gate. He 
had a tin bucket in his hands, and was thumping 
it to frighten the mule, that sidled and reared, 
only to be gripped into submission by the rider's 
strong legs. The fellow was ragged enough, 
but splendidly built and tall, with a strong, good- 
humored, rather sensual face. 

That was all I had time to notice. He gal- 
loped on to the barn, somehow caused the beast 
to come to a stop with a plunge, and then sent a 
curious call or whoop ringing all over the farm. 
Seldom have I seen in a grown man such a dis- 
play of sheer boyish spirits. Uncle Zach went 
to the barn and took charge of the mule, that, it 
appeared, had been caught straying near Burns' 
cabin, and the man strode away with his bucket. 
I heard him yodeling musically away through 
the woods. 

'That's a sight of a feller, that Gid Burns," 
was the old man's comment as he came in to 
breakfast. "Said he 'lowed to git a bucket o' 



water as he went back by the spring. Fust 
thing I ever knowed him to do for that woman 
o' hisn." 

As soon as the breakfast dishes were washed 
we went to the loom again, Aunt Genevy and I. 
By the time we had untangled all the hanging 
ends of thread preparatory to passing them one 
by one through the heddles we were rather tired. 
Putting them through occupied the rest of the 
morning, particularly as a hundred and seven- 
teen new harness-eyes, or heddles, had to be 
made of scraps of carpet chain. This was work 
I could do, and Aunt Genevy continued her task 
of passing the threads through the loops, alter- 
nating carefully, according to the nearly oblit- 
erated "draft," between the different sets of hed- 
dles carrying the five separate layers of warp: 
green in one, so many threads, so many vacan- 
cies, blue in another, and so on. 

When my heddles were finished I sat inside 
the loom and handed her the threads. This is 
the task most dreaded by mountain children. 
Fancy being imprisoned in a loom all day hand- 



ing those tedious threads ! . . . And now I 
began to see the value of the "cross" in the 
chain, how it preserved the relative position of 
each and every colored thread in the complex 
pattern, holding every least stripe in place 
through all the yards and yards of seemingly 
hopelessly tangled warp. 

"Warp's like people," said the dear soul, 
laughing quietly; "might' near all of us has to 
have a 'cross' to keep us straight." 

She has had her share of crosses. For all her 
gentleness and courtesy, there is something ter- 
rible about old Geneva Rogers, a fascination, as 
of the stern and awful patience of some grand, 
stubborn slave. At an age when the mothers of 
any but a wolf-race become lace-capped and felt- 
shod pets of the household, relegated to the 
safety of cushioned nooks in favorite rooms, she 
is yet able to toil almost as severely as ever. She 
takes wearisome journeys afoot, and is ready to 
do battle upon occasion to defend her own. Her 
strength and endurance are beyond imagination 
to women of the sheltered life. 


After dinner came a task only a little less 
tedious than that just completed — the drawing 
of each of those six hundred threads with a thin 
wooden hook through the fine rattan teeth of 
the sley. Here, again, the utmost caution was 
necessary to prevent any two threads from inter- 
lacing. Summoning all my patience, I began at 
one end of the sley and she at the other, and 
hours after we met rather on my side of the mid- 
dle. As the sun was dropping behind the woods 
we stretched the threads forward four by four 
and tied them in place along the breast beam. 

"Now at last you go to weaving," I said. 

But she only smiled and showed me how even 
now all was not in working order. A few mo- 
ments' trial brought to notice a loose thread or 
two, several twists, a "flat," and a broken thread 
to be coaxed into harmony with the rest. At 
last, in the fading light, Aunt Genevy proudly 
descended the stairs to finish the supper I had 
set on the fire, and announced that she would 
begin weaving Monday morning. 

There was to be preaching Sunday morning 



at the church, and we all made ready to go, Ril- 
ley and John and the old folks, the two younger 
boys and I. Mary Burns was sitting on her 
doorstep as we passed, and looked up with her 

"Has she no kinfolks at all?" I inquired. She 
had, it appeared, a father, and married brothers 
and sisters, living at some distance in the other 
valley; but she did not know how to write to 
send them a letter. They were honest people, 
said Uncle Zach. The oldest brother, a stone- 
cutter, was well-to-do. Her father lived on his 
own farm. I knew better than to interfere by 
so much as a word, or I should have advised the 
poor child to make her way back to her father's 
house, where, by all the traditions of the land, 
she should have been well and tactfully re- 
ceived. But I do not think she would have 
wished to go. 

Gid Burns was at church. He sat with the 
younger men of the congregation — that is, near 
the door, on the left. His elders and the pillars 
of the church, with a visiting preacher or two 



and the man who was expected to lead the sing- 
ing, occupied the front seats and the "amen cor- 
ner." Aunt Genevy walked straight up to the 
front. Rilley and her children sat a little way 
behind her. The boys did not come in at all, 
preferring to remain with their fellows outside 
until the last bell rang, when they would slip 
quietly into the rearmost seats. Thus is prece- 
dence managed in the mountains. 

Burns added a rich and powerful untrained 
tenor voice to "Some Have Mothers in the Prom- 
ised Land," and seemed very attentive to the ser- 
mon. When meeting was out he was invited to 
a seat in our wagon, and accepted courteously 
and promptly. He and Uncle Zach exchanged 
views on the preacher's doctrine, and, although 
neither could read, they quoted a number of 
texts with tolerable accuracy, while we women 
and Rilley's children remained meekly and 
decorously silent. 

The incompatibility of Gid Burns' religious 
pretensions with his habit of living struck no- 
body. Had their talk been of the coming elec- 



tions, the subject would hardly have seemed less 
foreign to the question of daily behavior. In 
some respects the Scriptures influence the moun- 
taineer's every-day behavior to a painful degree. 
On other matters of some importance its canons 
do not seem to bear at all. A man who would 
be shocked at swearing or Sabbath-breaking may 
make light of killing an enemy who has robbed 
or insulted one of his kin, his line of thought in 
the latter case being that when human creatures 
sink below a certain level they become mere ver- 
min, of which the world needs immediate rid- 

I once heard a murderer awaiting trial say of 
the man he had killed: "I tell you, sir, as sure 
as God made apples, a meaner man never broke 
the world's bread. The only reason he hadn't 
died long ago was that God didn't want him and 
the devil wouldn't have him." 

In the same abstract way Gid prated on of 
righteousness, temperance and judgment to 
come, without a thought of his own selfishness, 
since the victim of it was only a woman, and his 



wife at that. The adolescent male of the human 
species has, even under civilization, an inborn 
contempt for girls. And this feeling in the 
mountaineer's maturity is superseded by a sort 
of wondering, half-amused pity. In Gideon's 
mind the pity had not yet arrived. 

His strong teeth flashed, his eyes gleamed as 
he talked. There was undeniably a certain 
charm about him. He was simply a young sav- 
age with an overabundance of energy. 

As we neared his hut a smoke of cooking rose 
from its chimney. Gid leaped over the revolv- 
ing wheel, inviting us all in to dinner, as part of 
a habit of hospitality. I do not think he realized 
that acceptance was out of the question. 
Through the door I saw poor Mary, stooping 
painfully over her fire of gathered chips, sick, 
overheated, and probably suffering in ways of 
which we did not know. A few hours later 
she sent a little neighbor girl in haste to Aunt 

I would have accompanied Aunt Genevy to 
the hut across the fields, but was required to stay 



and set up supper for Uncle Zach and the boys, 
who wished to go back to the feet-washing that 

At last, when the night-work was done and 
the table cleared — the boys helping me far more 
than they were wont to help their mother — I was 
free to take my way through the soft dusk to 
Burns' cabin. I was ready to cry with anxiety. 
Aunt Genevy opened the door for me, and as 
she drank the hot coffee I had brought I heard 
the faint mewing of a new little voice. She and 
Mary had got through the awful hour quite 
alone — Gid had not put in an appearance since 
dinner — and she had just completed the dress- 
ing of the baby with such old flour-sacks as lay 
at hand. There was no light save a lantern that 
was used for 'possum-hunting in 'possum-time. 
The new mother moaned bitterly on her 
wretched pallet. A kettle of steaming water sat 
on the stones which served the purpose of fire- 
irons, and this I was bidden to replenish. Next 
I took charge of the little one, while Aunt 
Genevy, herself weary almost unto death, less- 



ened the woman's discomfort as far as was pos- 

At ten o'clock or thereabouts she told me I 
might go. "And send down Zach or Luther 
with some things you'll find tied up in a bundle 
under the head of my bed — jist as soon as they 
git home. I was aimin' to fetch 'em, but I for- 

"Can't I bring them and stay with you?" I 

"You'd best git the boys and Zach some 
breakfast in the morning, if ye will," answered 
this old mountain woman, ever mindful of her 
man's comfort, although her own loss of food 
and sleep might be making her faint. And so I 
left, promising to bring her and Mary some 
breakfast before sunrise. 

Gideon, having been informed by Uncle Zach 
at church of what was probably taking place at 
his house, did not return that night. But he was 
there before me in the morning. The breakfast 
I had carried across the field was not more than 
enough for two, but he accepted a portion when 


it was offered him, Aunt Genevy declaring that 
she had slept several hours and was able to go 
home for her breakfast by-and-by. 

"You hain't never looked at this big, fine boy 
yit," she said, with a little diffidence, and threw 
the door wide open for the sake of light as 
Burns, awkwardly and reluctantly, tiptoed to 
the bed. Mary raised the blanket, and the 
man peered down at the brown-velvet skull 
and red, wrinkled forehead which alone were 

"Hello, Buster!" he said, clearing his throat 
huskily. "Git up and go with pappy to ketch 
a 'possum I" Then he let down the ragged blan- 
ket gingerly and inquired: "Ain't he liable to 
smother? And then : "Hain't ye got nary dress 
that'll fit him?" 

"I ain't got nothin' to make one out of," an- 
swered his wife, with the indifference of weak- 
ness and, I thought, despair. 

Indeed, I felt my own sensibilities numbed by 
his lack of concern in the matter. He meandered 
about the room a little, evidently ill at ease, and 



suddenly broke out : "Well, I expect I'll have to 
go to the store. " 

And then I could have boxed his ears. 

But he went on, still with the same unconcern 
of manner and immobility of countenance : "I'll 
git this big man a suit o' clothes. Anything you 
want from thar, Mary?" 

The woman's lids flew wide and a sudden ra- 
diance dispelled the weariness on her face. I 
wondered anew how the man could fail to be 
charmed by her beauty. I should have known 
that the first bond established between the primi- 
tive mother and her baby is that of being alike 
temporarily repulsive to their lord and master, 
and so companions in crime. She answered, 
quicker than I had ever heard her speak: "Yes, 
Gid; I want me a tuckin'-comb and some crackers 
and — and — a pair o' shoes." 

She need not have faltered over the latter re- 
quest. Gideon merely extracted a handful of 
small change from his clothes, counted his two 
dollars and odd cents deliberately, and said: 
"Well, I expect this'll git 'em, and some dinner 



besides. Much obleeged to you'ns. I'll git back 
ag'in dinner-time." And he shut the door be- 
hind him. 

"Praise God!" muttered the old woman. 

I looked at Mary Burns. Her face had taken 
the expression of a happy child's, and she was 
gazing at the little elevation of the blanket be- 
side her. Then, because it was imperative I 
should go home that morning, I left them there 
together, the old woman and the young; the one 
with her hardships and suffering like a lesson 
learned and mastered, the other with her eyes 
just opened on its meaning. 

I have never seen Gideon Burns nor his wife 
since that hour. But I have seen hundreds like 
them in the mountains, hundreds robbed of life's 
sweetest gift by the continual failure of well- 
meant efforts to bridge the gulf fixed by the 
mountaineers between woman and man. 

At twenty the mountain woman is old in all 
that makes a woman old — toil, sorrow, child- 
bearing, loneliness and pitiful want. She knows 

[6 4 ] 


the weight not only of her own years; she has 
dwelt since childhood in the shadow of centuries 
gone. The house she lives in is nearly always 
old — that is to say, a house with a history, a 
house thronged with memories of other lives. 
Her new carpet even, so gay on the rude pun- 
cheons, was made of old clothes and scraps of 
cloth. Who wove the cloth ? It was woven on 
her grandmother's loom. Yes, and she knows 
who built the loom. The marks of his simple 
tools are on its timbers still. Into her pretty 
patchwork she puts her babies' outgrown frocks, 
mingling their bright hues with the garments of 
a dead mother or sister, setting the pattern to- 
gether finally with the white in which she was 
married, or the calico she wore to play-parties 
when a girl. Perhaps she keeps her butter in a 
cedar keeler or piggin that her grandfather 
made. At all events she churns it in a home- 
made churn. Her door swings on huge wooden 
hinges. Who made them? In what fray was 
the oak latch dented and split, and who mended 
it with a scrap of iron? How many feet have 



worn down the middle of the doorstep-stone ! 
How many hearth-fires have sent their smoke in 
blue acrid puffs to darken the rafters! How 
many storms have beaten the hand-cleft shingles 
of the roof and strained at the mortised joints 
of its timbers ! 

Thus it comes that early in childhood she 
grows into dim consciousness of the vastness of 
human experience and the nobility of it. She 
learns to look upon the common human lot as a 
high calling. She gains the courage of the fatal- 
ist; the surety that nothing can happen which 
has not happened before; that, whatever she may 
be called upon to endure, she will yet know that 
others have undergone its like over and over 
again. Her lot is inevitably one of service and 
of suffering, and refines only as it is meekly and 
sweetly borne. For this reason she is never quite 
commonplace. To her mind nothing is trivial, 
all things being great with a meaning of divine 
purpose. And if as a corollary of this belief she 
is given to an absurd faith in petty signs and 
omens, who is to laugh at her? 


Is it sickness ? How many have lain in agony 
unto death on her old f our-poster bed ! Has her 
husband ill-treated her? She can endure with- 
out answering back. She has heard her elders 
tell of so many young husbands! Her dead 
babe ? So many born here have slept and laughed 
for a time beside that hearth and dropped from 
the current of life ! 

She has heard the stories of everything in the 
house, from the brown and cracked old cups 
and bowls to the roof-beams themselves, until 
they have become her literature. From them 
she borrows a sublime silent courage and pa- 
tience in the hour of trial. From their tragedies 
she learns, too, a sense of the immanent super- 
natural. It is almost as if they were haunted 
by audible and visible ghosts. Who would not 
fear to sit alone with old furniture that bears 
marks of blows, stains of blood and tears? 
They are friendly, too. They stand about her 
with the sympathy of like experience in times 
of distress and grief. This is one of the reasons 
why a mountain woman usually shows a dispro- 



portionate reluctance to selling her spinning- 
wheel or four-poster, even though the price of- 
fered be a bribe beyond imagination to one who 
sees whole dollars every day. 

Few of these things become part of the man's 
life. Men do not live in the house. They com- 
monly come in to eat and sleep, but their life is 
outdoors, foot-loose in the new forest or on the 
farm that renews itself crop by crop. His is the 
high daring and merciless recklessness of youth 
and the characteristic grim humor of the Ameri- 
can, these though he live to be a hundred. 
Heartily, then, he conquers his chosen bit of wil- 
derness, and heartily begets and rules his tribe, 
fighting and praying alike fearlessly and exult- 
antly. Let the woman's part be to preserve tra- 
dition. His are the adventures of which future 
ballads will be sung. He is tempted to eagle 
flights across the valleys. For him is the excite- 
ment of fighting and journeying, trading, drink- 
ing and hunting, of wild rides and nights of 
danger. To the woman, in place of these, are 
long nights of anxious watching by the sick, or 


of waiting in dreary discomfort the uncertain 
result of an expedition in search of provender or 
game. The man bears his occasional days of 
pain with fortitude such as a brave lad might 
display, but he never learns the meaning of 
resignation. The woman belongs to the race, 
to the old people. He is a part of the young 
nation. His first songs are yodels. Then he 
learns dance tunes, and songs of hunting and 
fighting and drinking, and couplets of terse, 
quaint fun. It is over the loom and the knitting 
that old ballads are dreamily, endlessly 
crooned. . . . 

Thus a rift is set between the sexes at baby- 
hood that widens with the passing of the years, 
a rift that is never closed even by the daily inter- 
dependence of a poor man's partnership with 
his wife. Rare is a separation of a married 
couple in the mountains; the bond of perfect 
sympathy is rarer. The difference is one of 
mental training and standpoint rather than the 
more serious one of unlike character, or mar- 
riage would be impossible. But difference there 

[6 9 ] 


certainly is. Man and woman, although they 
be twenty years married — although in twenty 
years there has been not one hour in which one 
has not been immediately necessary to the wel- 
fare of the other — still must needs regard each 
other wonderingly, with a prejudice that takes 
the form of a mild, half-amused contempt for 
one another's opinions and desires. The pathos 
of the situation is none the less terrible because 
unconscious. They are so silent. They know 
so pathetically little of each other's lives. 

Of course, the woman's experience is the 
deeper; the man's gain is in the breadth of out- 
look. His ambition leads him to make drain 
after drain on the strength of his silent, wing- 
less mate. Her position means sacrifice, sacrifice 
and ever sacrifice, for her man first, and then for 
her sons. 




"Hit's worth a trick to learn one." 

THERE is no such thing as a community of 
mountaineers. They are knit together, 
man to man, as friends, but not as a body of men. 
A community, be it settlement or metropolis, 
must revolve on some kind of axis, and must be 
held together by a host of intermediate ties com- 
ing between the family and the State, and these 
are not to be found in the mountains. A center 
might be supplied by their common interest in 
things not of earth, if the church met together 
regularly, week after week, as in the towns; but 
a body that beholds itself, as it were, but once 
a month — and that always "if no providential 
hinderance" — cannot exert much influence as a 



Our men are almost incapable of concerted 
action unless they are needed by the Government. 
The traditions of the Revolution, persisting 
through generations, send them headlong into 
every war in which the United States becomes 
concerned. It was the living spirit of '76 that 
sent the mountaineers into the Civil War — they 
understood very little of what it was all about. 
I even venture to say that had the Southerners 
fought under the Stars and Stripes, most of our 
people would have been found on that side, fol- 
lowing the flag they knew. 

But between blood-relationship and the Fed- 
eral Government no relations of master and ser- 
vant, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, em- 
ployer and employee, are interposed to bind so- 
ciety into a whole. In many localities currency 
is almost never used; a man gets his entire liv- 
ing from the ground, his utensils and implements 
are made by the local smith, and he barters pelts 
and beeswax for the needles and salt he must 
obtain at a store. Of course, this lack of com- 
mercial medium makes against the formation of 



castes. In short, the only classification is founded 
on character, and the only groups are those aris- 
ing from ties of kinship. 

We who live so far apart that we rarely see 
more of one another than the blue smoke of each 
other's chimneys are never at ease without the 
feel of the forest on every side — room to 
breathe, to expand, to develop, as well as to 
hunt and to wander at will. The nature of the 
mountaineer demands that he have solitude for 
the unhampered growth of his personality, wing- 
room for his eagle heart. 

Under the conditions of such a life it is inevi- 
table that our social grouping falls naturally into 
tribes and clans. Most of the man-handlings and 
murders in the mountains are the result of fam- 
ily feuds, of perverted family affection. For 
clans are ever pitching against one another, and 
up to a certain point intermarriage only makes 
things worse. If well-disposed and law-abiding, 
the factions seek to settle difficulties as amicably 
as possible. But some bully on the lower and 
more aggressive side is likely, after more or less 

[73] ' 



corn whiskey, to open hostilities, fortified in the 
belief that he "can whip a field full o' them 
acorn-fed critters and mind three gaps at the 
same time.' , Very soon both parties are shoot- 
ing at sight. How beautiful this very clannish- 
ness may be in its right sphere — how loyal and 
generous and kindly a tie — is known only to 
those who have depended on it through many a 
crisis of want and illness and sorrow, when half 
a county shared, in greater or less degree, the 
shock and the burden of tears and pain. 

How different from the actual state of affairs 
is that widespread popular idea, fostered by 
newspaper stories, that no class of people in 
America is more lawless than the mountaineers ! 
That more killings do not occur in the mountain 
country in proportion to the number of inhabi- 
tants than elsewhere is a fact beyond dispute. 
The process of law in these thinly settled places 
is likely to be tedious and uncertain, thus lend- 
ing license to such as are by nature of a criminal 
tendency. This is the reverse phase of that un- 
bounded personal liberty, that freedom for in- 



dividual development, which a new country al- 
ways affords, and which is bound to result in 
crime as well as in splendid, unique "types." But 
crime, as such, is not condoned by any moun- 
taineer worthy the name. The criminal belongs 
to the submerged, the unwashed, the unfit, and 
is, besides, hopelessly in the minority. It is only 
the desperado here and there who figures so 
conspicuously in the newspapers; the peaceable 
many are unknown to the public. Then, too, it 
makes a difference who is killed. If you read 
that no attempt has been made to bring the 
murderer to justice, you may be reasonably cer- 
tain that the dead man was not valuable to his 

"There's places in Sand Mountain," in this re- 
gion and that, where dirt and disorder, moral 
and material, reign rampant, and where the 
most extreme statements of the newspapers hold 
good. There is certainly a class of mountain 
people, dirty, degenerate, incredibly ignorant 
and unintelligent, very little superior to savages, 
it exists, but I have lived in many different lo- 



calities in the Kentucky and Tennessee moun- 
tains and have never seen it yet. One of the 
members of the Blue Spring Church is said to 
have come, fifteen years ago, with his wife, both 
barefoot, penniless and horribly unclean, from 
such a haunt of squalor. That man does not 
amount to much yet, and in all likelihood never 
will, since he regularly drinks up his earnings; 
but he has at least acquired the accomplishment 
most valued by the mountain people, reading 
the Bible, and it is pleasant to visit his orderly 
cabin, gay with flowers, having a room set apart 
for the daughters of the family, and by them 
perpetually swept and garnished. I feel sure 
that there are many more of their kind who need 
only a chance to right themselves, 

I once attempted to pay a long-promised visit 
to the family of an old farmer-preacher in Se- 
quatchie, rider of a circuit on the river below 
Moccasin Bend. The road proved to be longer 
and harder than I had anticipated. So after 
the day's journey I found myself caught by the 
darkness in a strange part of the country, with 



no feed for my horse, and a stormy night ap- 
proaching. I applied for shelter at the first 
dwelling, and was, of course, without comment, 
made welcome. Thus much I had expected, but 
was surprised when my host called me by name. 
"Don't you know me?" he asked. "Don't 
you rickollect Tommy Bannon? Well, I'm his 
uncle Zebedee. Ain't you never heard Tommy 
call my name?" He was even more solicitous for 
my welfare than is usual here, and presently re- 
calling that months ago I had assisted one 
Tommy Bannon out of an ordinary lad's 
troubles, I understood his uncle Zebedee's atti- 
tude. My slight service to the nephew had, ac- 
cording to an admirably simple view of human 
relations, placed me in line with the good people 
who made up the vast majority of the uncle's 
world, people to be trusted and cultivated as 
friends. It was inconceivable that I might be- 
long to the dark minority of evil ! 

This man's big, double log house stood in the 
middle of a fine farm. It was a structure of the 
rif^ht sort — two pens, with an entry between, 



every log "sad die-notched" to the next, making 
a sort of dovetail in the corners, and every tim- 
ber set in a mortise and tenon. It was the kind 
of house that a tornado might roll over and over 
in one piece and leave about as solid as before. 
The barn and cellar were well stored. But the 
home was at such a distance from any market 
that the modern conveniences were few — a typi- 
cal condition of affairs. Clothes and bedding, 

for instance, were mainly homespun and of ex- 
cellent quality, but there were not enough dishes 

to enable all the family to eat at once. The 

sugar had given place to sorghum and honey, 

while there was imminent danger of a salt 


u Them folks down the road got no salt, 

either? I 'lowed ye might borrow a teacup ful," 

I heard the man say to his wife. 

"I've done sent thar," she answered, scraping 

the bottom of the salt-piggin. "And I know 

sister Jane ain't got none, for she jist yistidy 

tried to borrow some o' me!" 

And it rained and rained. "I declare, pap, 



you-uns had oughter ketch out the mules and git 
a soon start for Dunlap in the morning/' said 
the wife, anxiously; but a record-breaking rain 
fell in the night and the river came up over its 
bridges. I could not get out, either to go on 
my way or to return, for another day and night. 
Nor was any salt to be had for our potatoes. 

At my departure I begged to be allowed to 
pay at least for my horse's feed ; but the answer 
was, "Why, no; I knowed you as soon as you 
come in!" as if that settled the matter beyond 
further parley. I doubt if an entire stranger 
would have been actually permitted to make pay- 
ment; but my host assumed the obligation as a 
family affair. 

The New Englander's suspicion of a gift has 
no place in the mountaineer's mind. He is not 
afraid of an obligation, and never dreams of 
looking for a worm of ulterior motive at the 
core of a kindness. Even candidates for local 
office have hardly learned the use of free drinks 
in electioneering. 

Send your neighbor in the mountains a pres- 



ent, and he will, if possible, return you some- 
thing in the same basket. He has no notion of 
paying for the gift, neither is he striving to im- 
press you with his independence, which is too 
fundamental a quality to need showing forth in 
such a paltry manner. The value of the gift 
has nothing to do with it. Perhaps what you 
gave him was costly — some store-bought article, 
and therefore doubly precious in his eyes. His 
return may be a fat shoat or a newly killed 'pos- 
sum, or only a pumpkin or a cup of muscadines. 
However poor it may be, he is not ashamed of 
it. He has not looked at your gift so much as at 
the spirit of its offering, and he expects the same 
high-minded acceptance from you. A pumpkin, 
he argues, serves to express good feeling as 
plainly as a fading heifer, provided it be his 

The little boy who stood by my school-teach- 
er's desk every morning last winter, complaining 
"I'm so hungry," until it became the rule for 
him to share the contents of my basket — how 
royally he presented me with the sweetbreads 


when his father's only sow was made into win- 
ter provender! There, at last, was something 
he could share with his teacher. Kindliness for 
kindliness : that was his one thought, and neither 
he nor his parents would ever have dreamed of 
the giving of bread in any other than a spirit 
of fellowship and goodwill. 

So borrowing and lending, bestowing and re- 
ceiving, go merrily on, with very little of the 
friction that would certainly ensue in a more 
populous region. These good folks are narrow 
without being petty. Moreover, they see each 
other so infrequently, and are habitually of so 
few words, that the fine reserve of their manner 
is never displaced by too common familiarity. 

Occasionally a mild covetousness will find 
frank expression, as, for instance: "John, I 
wouldn't care if I had that cow o' yourn and 
you-uns had ye a better one." But property 
rights are well respected, with some curious res- 
ervations. No woman will borrow another's 
wire hairpin without asking leave; no man will 
help himself to a friend's matches for his pipe; 


these things have to be paid for at the store. 
But apples are plenty and neighbors few, and 
there is little objection to your climbing any- 
body's rail-fence and eating your fill. It is sig- 
nificant that, while those who need food fre- 
quently help themselves to it, robbery and house- 
breaking are almost unknown. On hot nights 
the cabin door stands wide open, and the only 
locks are those remarkable contrivances of hard- 
wood, mysterious as the combination of a safe, 
that each fashions to his own liking for the 
smokehouse door. 

And feuds are part of the price we pay for 
the simplicity and beauty of mountain life — for 
its hospitality, for its true and far-reaching fam- 
ily ties. I do not say the inevitable price, for 
the lawless fighter, along with illicit whiskey, is 
bound to disappear; but these ugly features are, 
under present conditions, the price of the tribal 




"The less a man talks, the fewer lies he tells." 
— Sayings of Joe Winchester. 

WHEN Joseph Brown's party wore their 
coonskin caps down to Nickojack, they, 
and the first pioneers that followed them, were 
not widely different from the settlers of older 
States. They brought with them plenty of New 
England shrewdness and grit, and these quali- 
ties persist in their descendants to-day. But 
vast modifications have been wrought, until the 
present type is scarcely to be traced to its origi- 
nal. The mountaineer is, generally speaking, 
even narrower and more superstitious, because 
more ignorant, than the farmer of the Adiron- 
dacks. He is also more generous, and this may 



be due to the frequency with which cold and 
hunger beset him. For if a man is not sure when 
his own time may come to beg, he is careful how 
he refuses his neighbor. And, except along the 
coast, where men are wont to meet the sea in 
its rages, there is hardly a New Englander as 
daring, as reckless of danger to life and limb, 
as are the mountaineers ; but it is easy to see that 
this trait, too, is directly the result of environ- 

But there are other qualities and traditions 
the cause of which is farther to seek. The bear- 
ing of the mountaineer, for instance, dignified 
rather than stolid, distinct alike from the homely 
shrewdness of the New Englander, the pictur- 
esque freedom of the man from the new West 
and the elaborate courtesy of the South proper ! 
Does it not bring to mind a vision of moccasined 
feet and the grave, laconic speech of chiefs met 
together for a high pow-wow ? 

A little boy ran out on the porch to meet his 
father just returned from town. He cried out 
in the delicious excitement of a child ready to 


burst with news: "Father! Jim's married, and 
old June's got a calf, and we bought a barrel o' 
specked apples!" The man gave him just a 
glance and an inarticulate murmur in passing. 
He was not ill-natured; had the little fellow been 
a few years younger he might have received the 
compliment of being laughed at, and a whimsical 
reply, "Ah, now, that ain't all so, is hit?" But 
he was considered old enough to know better, 
and it became necessary to snub him. 

Under such treatment a lad soon attains the 
sedate demeanor of his elders, and at fourteen 
chews his tobacco in a wordless revery with as 
much dignity as a young brave in his first war- 

Indian-like, too, is the mountaineer's stoic ac- 
ceptance of privation and hardship and the sar- 
donic quality of his humor. From the Cherokee 
came most of the mountaineer's knowledge of 
herbs and medicines. The best herb-doctor I 
know is a dear old soul who learned from an In- 
dian doctor when she was a child, rambling with 
him and his children in search of simples. 



And, of course, their woodcraft is Indian— 
the thousand contrivances of the naked man cast 
on his own resources in the forest. The savage 
had reduced the art of living and traveling in 
the wilderness to an exact science hundreds of 
years before his white brother had need of it. 
And with all his knowledge the white man could 
not better so finished a product, could only bor- 
row it outright and in detail. 

I once accompanied old Pap Farris on a tramp 
around his land. He had recently had the whole 
tract "processioned," to make sure of some dis- 
puted boundaries, and was going over them to 
fix them in mind. He pointed out to me the 
cornerstones, and now and again a "line tree" 
marked after the Indian fashion with an almost 
indistinguishable scar in the outer bark. A white 
blaze, such as is used for the marking out of 
new trails, reaches through to the growing sap, 
and is usually covered over by the time the trail 
is trodden clear enough to do without its help. 
But a line-mark must be referred to year after 
year. We had just traversed a thicket of "little 


timber," grown up, since the war, on land that 
had once been cleared, when he paused in the 
edge of the older woods and called my attention 
to an ordinary-looking stone. It was not a land- 
mark, but he stooped over and raised it. There 
was a hole underneath which might have been 
made by a snake or a mole, for what I could see. 
But Pap said, "Now I'll show you-uns somep'n," 
and thrust his walking-stick of seasoned hickory 
down and down. I do not know what I expected 
to come wriggling out of that hole. I was cer- 
tainly surprised when he withdrew the stick 
dripping wet for about three inches from the 

"See that? All last summer, when there was 
springs goin' dry that hadn't failed in ten year, 
this stick fetched water here every time. If I 
ever do take a notion to dig hit out, hit'll be a 
fine spring." 

The one subject the mountaineer allows him- 
self to become enthusiastic over is cold water. 
I had often heard of the discovery and subse- 
quent careful concealment of springs by old men, 



but this was the first such secret I had ever been 
permitted to share. I asked why he hid his find. 
He would give no satisfactory answer, merely 
repeating, "Hit's a fine vein o' water, a fine 

To my thinking, the incident savored of abo- 
riginal custom, and called to my mind a tale 
of hidden things which I heard first as a 
child, sitting on a sheepskin before the fire. I 
have listened to it often since, the story of the 
Winchester mystery, with but few variations. 
The mountaineer fixes a statement in his mem- 
ory by reiteration, and seems sometimes not sat- 
isfied that you have fairly grasped his story until 
he has repeated it, in substance, several times. 
Told in this manner, a word or a song may pass 
from mouth to mouth and undergo but slight 

Old Joe Winchester was too much of a wan- 
derer to have amassed any wealth of houses and 
lands. But he had the gathered experience of 
the rolling stone, and is remembered as an intel- 


ligent man and an interesting talker by many of 
the gray heads of our county. He was also an 
excellent worker in wood and iron, and to his 
ability in these lines may have been due, in the 
first instance, the fact that Salola chose him for 
his friend. 

Salola ("Squirrel") had returned from the 
nation to visit the country of his ancestors, and 
seemed deeply interested, in his immobile Indian 
fashion, in all Winchester's processes of mold- 
ing and blacksmithing and tool-making. The 
two soon get into the way of disappearing to- 
gether for weeks at a time, ostensibly on hunting 
expeditions. But when they had hunted and 
fished and trapped and drank and worked to- 
gether by turns for several years a whisper went 
abroad that their long camping trips down the 
Suck and in the Horseshoe were not without 
purpose, that they were in search of something. 
Of course, a vein of ore was the first guess, al- 
though at that time nothing more valuable than 
second-rate coal was believed to exist in the 
mountain. Perhaps some, curious or covetous, 



might have spied upon the secret, had not Win- 
chester been well known for a quick-tempered 
man, whose rifle was ever ready; and the In- 
dian's disposition was no less uncertain. 

The two men were alike in many ways — both 
dark, spare, tall and silent-footed; both wearing 
moccasins, and armed with the long knife and 
tomahawk, carried in a stout leather belt. And 
both wore the hunting-shirt of scarlet homespun, 
comfortable as the modern sweater; scarlet, be- 
cause "red makes the deer stand at gaze." 

It was not until long after Salola had returned 
to his people that Winchester, gray now and 
with but little prospect of years in which to 
measure the value of his secret, opened his mouth 
in answer to the inquiries of his grown sons. 
Yes, he said, he was looking for a mine; and yes, 
he had found mineral. But if they were wishful 
for the like, they could e'en go hunt for it as he 
had hunted. 

That was all he would say. So they were 
obliged to see the red shirt, Sunday after Sun- 
day, disappear into the woods alone, now in this 



direction and now in that, but always returning 
with sufficient lead to make bullets for all their 
guns during the week. He mended nets and 
pans with that lead for all his neighbors, for he 
was an open-handed soul. But to none did he 
proffer a hint of the source's whereabouts. 

One day a man threw the whole neighborhood 
into considerable excitement by proclaiming that 
he had found old Joe Winchester's mine. He 
had become separated from a surveying party, 
and while confused in mind and completely 
turned around as to the points of the compass, 
had come upon virgin lead lying right on the 
surface. He had broken bushes all about the 
spot, and had even blazed a number of trees to 
mark his trail. But, though he essayed again 
and again to retrace his steps, once attempting 
to pilot a company of seekers, he never found 
the place again. 

At another time a hunter followed his dogs 
over a hill in the Suck region, down across a 
"swag," and over the breaks of the stream, be- 
fore finally overtaking his quarry. Somewhere 



along this course he noticed where the deer's 
hoof had scraped a bit of gray metal that might 
or might not have been Joe Winchester's lead. 
He had not stayed to examine it, could not even 
remember on which hill it was ; he was after that 

At first in jest, but later with some show of 
serious belief, it began to be said that the old 
man had received an enchantment from the 
Cherokee — some Indian "medicine" that would 
guard his secret forever. Winchester laughed at 
such talk when it reached his ears. "If you-uns 
want a mine, you're jist as welcome to hunt for 
hit as I was," he replied to all questions. 

At last, when he was no longer able either to 
fetch his lead or to use it, he told his sons a tale 
stranger than any their imaginations had in- 
vented. He recounted to them the whole story 
of the six years he had spent with Salola; all 
their adventures in the forest, the bear and deer 
they had killed, the camps they had built of logs 
and bark and pine boughs, and the caves they 
had explored merely by the way. The boys' 



curiosity about the old man's inexhaustible lead 
supply had no doubt prevented their ever guess- 
ing that the real object of his search was not lead 
at all, but a far more valuable vein of silver 
which had been known and worked by the In- 
dians before they left Tennessee. Salola had 
by heart the traditions of the place as he had 
received them in boyhood from his elders, and 
these were all the two had to go on, no maps nor 
written instructions of any kind. 

They had found, as Salola had predicted, the 
primitive tools that had been employed in work- 
ing the ore, rusted and decayed. It is a pity the 
old man did not describe these more minutely. 
They were hidden in a rock-house that Salola 
believed to be about two miles from the real 
mine. For the abandonment had been premedi- 
tated, and arranged with a view to returning one 
day and taking possession; hence all traces of 
their not very extensive operations had been con- 
cealed. There was an Indian ladder — a pole 
with limbs lopped off so as to afford a foothold — ■ 
leaning against the rock iust about where the 



Indian had expected to find it. It was almost too 
rotten to bear its own weight, and they had cut 
another, for the cliff was to be ascended at this 
point. Then, at the top, a stooping oak, bent 
over when a sapling, directed them a little far- 

After this they had lost the trail for three 
years, and had only found it by accident, stum- 
bling one day into a cavern lined with picture- 
writing that not even the Indian could decipher. 
There was a rude outline of a chief with feath- 
ers and drawn bow. There were a number of 
suns, or moons, a bird flying, and some symbolic 
criss-crosses, which, according to Salola, signified 
camps, but nothing else that a man could make 
head or tail of. There were arrow-heads and 
potsherds on the cave's floor in plenty, and there 
was a circular pit, fire-blackened, that seemed to 
have been used as a forge or smelting-furnace. 
This was the most important discovery they 
made in all the six years. 

And then, although they seemed just on the 
point of finding the object of their search, the 



Indian gave over seeking. He was old; he felt 
death on him, he said, and wished to be with his 
people. Whether he had other reasons for re- 
turning to the nation, or whether he lost hope 
and faith in their quest, Winchester never knew. 
Nor did his own solitary ramblings meet with 
further success; the old silver mine was never 

All that was mighty interesting, the Winches- 
ter boys admkted. But he had really told them 
nothing that would help their pursuit of the 
search. He had told all this simply as a tale, 
naming no localities, not even the general direc- 
tion of such finds as he had made. Where had 
he come upon the cavern with the forge-pit? 
That was what they most wished to know. 

"Well," he answered their eagerness grudg- 
ingly, "I will tell ye this much. You go down 
Tanner's Creek in the dry time o' the fall, when 
all the creeks run low, until you come to a curi's- 
lookin' blue rock in the bed of the creek that 
you can't see when the water's up ; and thar ye 
leave hit and go up to the breaks, whar ye ought 



to find our Indian ladder still a-leanin' into a 
corner o' the bluff." 

"I don't much believe in that air mine," said 

"I've seed the float," he answered, quietly. 
"01' Salola had a piece. Them Indians had kep' 
some all that time to prove the story; and hit 
sure was rich." 

"You don't know whether hit come from that 
mine or not," they objected; but nevertheless 
they believed him. 

"When he comes to die he'll tell," they said 
to themselves. But old Joe Winchester's end 
came as he would have desired, suddenly and 
without warning; and even the whereabouts of 
his lead is still unknown. 

But the greater mystery to me is the old man's 
motive in burying his secret with him. Did the 
Indian forbid him by oath to divulge it? Did 
he wish to test the courage and endurance of his 
sons by obliging them to search? Did he, to the 
end of his days, cherish a hope of selling his 
information to some capitalist willing to invest? 




Or did he always intend to tell them at last- 
some day — and put the day off too long? I have 
thought over these and other explanations, but 
they seem to me equally improbable. 

It seems to me now, however, that if I could 
learn why Pap Farris conceals his vein of free- 
stone water I should have surprised the chief 
wonder of the Winchester secret. The recesses 
of these men's natures are not less wild and 
dark and tortuous than the labyrinths of their 
native hills. Sometimes one may suspect an 
aroma of Cherokee magic haunting them all. 




"I've swapped the devil for a witch." 

EVERY phase of the mountaineer's life con- 
nects in some way with tradition an- 
ciently received. It is scarcely too much to say 
that every man and woman in the mountains is, 
in one way or another, superstitious. The "boo- 
ger" may be dreams, or charms against diseases; 
it may be some absurd fear, of owls, or haunts, 
or burning certain kinds of wood, or carrying a 
hoe through the house. It is sure to be some- 
thing. You stumble on it some day, grotesque 
as a Dutch toy, among the clean hard furniture 
of a simple mind, and wonder how it came there. 
From the old Irish it is likely, or else from the 
Cherokee, or from the grimly mystical minds of 
the earliest Indian-fighting pioneers. 



^he signs and portents at the end of every 
tongue are innumerable. If a bird or a chicken 
dies in your hand you will get the weak trembles 
and drop everything you take hold of. If a bird 
weaves a hair of your head into its nest you will 
have headaches until that nest falls to pieces; 
and if ever a bird builds in your shoe or pocket, 
or in any of your clothes, you may prepare to 
die within the year. If a man comes into 
your house first on New Year's morning you 
will have no luck that year in raising chickens; 
if a woman, your luck in boiling soap will be 

And so forth, and so on. "If you don't cuss 
you'll never raise gourds." "If you ain't bad- 
tempered you can't git pepper to bear." "If 
you're hairy about the arms and chest you'll have 
good luck with hogs." "If you cut up a feather- 
bed into pillows you'll have bad luck till they all 
wear out." 

"If the bread's burnt the cook's mad." "If 
your fire won't kindle you'll marry a lazy man ; 
if you slop water on your clothes you'll marry a 


drunkard." "If you dream o' flyin' " — — But 
let us not begin on the lore of dreams. 

Curious, indeed, are the superstitions of 
grandmotherhood — the ceremonies and beliefs 
called into play by the arrival of new little grand- 
children. What a plucking of herbs, what a 
consulting of signs and omens, both before and 
after the event ! What pet names then and lulla- 
bies — baby-talk mingled with endearments that 
Chaucer's nurse may have addressed to him ! 
"You little dawtie, little poppee-doll ! Bless hits 
little angel-lookin' time!" 

If the number of creases on each of the baby's 
fat legs is the same the next born will be a girl. 
The baby must wear a string of corn-beads 
round its neck to facilitate teething, and later a 
bullet or coin to prevent nose-bleed. Its wee 
track must be printed in the first snow that falls, 
to ward off croup. The first woodtick that fas- 
tens itself to the little body is an omen, too : you 
must kill it on an axe or other tool if you wish 
baby to grow into a clever workman. If it be 
killed on a bell or banjo, on any clear-ringing 


substance, he will develop a voice for singing; if 
on a book, he will learn to "speak all kind o' 
proper words," all gifts highly esteemed in the 
mountains. A baby's sore mouth may be cured 
by the breath of a man who has never seen his 
own father. This I take to be an old Cherokee 
charm. Sometimes the child is given a drink 
from an old shoe. Few employ these remedies, 
however, so long as the bitter golden-seal root 
is to be had for the digging. 

Old and young fear above all things the 
breaking of the Sabbath. Some fellows who are 
perfectly unconscious of any blame attaching to 
their custom of never working through the week, 
entertain such strict scruples on this point that 
their hard-working women folk are obliged to sit 
up late Saturday night patching clothes by the 
light of a pine knot, rather than touch needle 
and scissors, implements of labor, on Sunday. I 
once knew two toilers in an isolated bark camp 
to lose count, peel bark from morning till night 
on what they supposed was Saturday, and on 
discovering their mistake grieve as though for 


mortal sin. Were a man perversely to plow and 
plant a field on Sunday his neighbors would con- 
fidently expect a blight to consume that particu- 
lar crop before it could be harvested. "No good 
was ever knowed to come of workin' on a Sun- 

When I visit Aunt Neppie Ann Lowry I try 
to make a point of staying over-night for the 
sake of her fine old stories. We sit by the light 
of a small lamp, instead of a pine torch, but the 
effect is not seriously marred. 

Aunt Neppie Ann's lot is not so hard as that 
of most mountain women. Although she has 
been a widow these twenty years and has lost 
three children, she invariably states at experi- 
ence meeting that her soul is happy and that she 
has a heap to be thankful for, which is quite 
true. She lives with her two sons ; Joe's wife is 
dead and Arth is one of the few confirmed bach- 
elors in this locality, and between them they 
make her a good living. She keeps the house, 
raises chickens and looks after the milk and 



Joe's fourteen-year-old boy gets in the night 
wood and the water, and even milks the cows. 
She does but little spinning and weaving, and 
no garden or field work at all. So she has more 
time for what stands to her people instead of 
literary pursuits — the repeating over and over 
of old tales and proverbs and the observance of 
signs and omens. On Sundays she goes attired 
in dark-colored homespun, with clean, starched 
apron and kerchief. Her sunbonnet is made of 
store gingham and stitched after an ivy-leaf pat- 
tern of her own. She has had it "for Sunday" 
for seven years come next November. She al- 
ways carries a fan, the tail of a great wild gob- 
bler that Arth killed one memorable Christmas 
week when some half-dozen hunters camped in 
Purvine's Fork and one froze to death. This 
circumstance gives the great turkey-fan a pecu- 
liar and eerie value in Aunt Neppie Ann's eyes. 
She carries, too, a reticule containing her spec- 
tacles, and sundry treasures of seeds and medi- 
cines, which she is in the habit of dividing with 
her neighbors on Sunday visits. She is ac- 


quainted with some half thousand herbs and 
remedies, including what to wear round one's 
neck against contagious diseases and toothaches. 
Wherever trouble is present there enters Aunt 
Neppie Ann, stepping in comfortable state, her 
reticule packed with herbs and salves. To a 
death or a birth or an illness she comes in all the 
beauty of an angel of healing, and everywhere 
she is well beloved. 

"I was a-comin' home from Partheny's yis- 
tidy," says she, "and I found this here pore little 
cat a-settin' on a log in the woods and a yowlin' 
like hit was might' near't starved. Hit's good 
luck to have a cat come to ye that a way, and 
this here one's a cat o' three colors. They say 
your house'll never burn down whilst ye keep 
one. I've took 'n' buried the tip eend o' her 
tail under the doorstep, so'st she'd stay." The 
old woman laughs placidly, for even to her this 
particular superstition seems a little absurd; still, 
there may be something in it, she thinks, strok- 
ing her pet thoughtfully. "I've seed people that 
believed black cats was witches, hain't you ?" 


"Witches! Shucks, mother !" snorts Joe at 
this, and then subsides. Joe Lowry will not 
send his boy to the Sunday-school the summer 
people have established at the Foot because too 
many unreasonable doctrines are taught there. 
He is aware that all the summer people believe 
the world to be round like a ball. Now, Joe is 
too hard-headed to believe even in witchcraft, 
much less in any such doggoned foolishness as 
that. He is sure his father and grandfather 
never heard tell of such an idea, and he can read 
with his own eyes what the Good Book says of 
the earth's four corners. The Lord certainly 
cannot have made the world over since that was 
written ! 

He believes, however — for he has noticed it 
all his life — that one must depend a great deal 
on the moon. In the first place, the new moon 
is full of water, as everybody knows; and if it 
stands on its tip so that the water spills out there 
will be a wet month. If it lies on its back it 
"holds the water," and there will be little rain. 
Cows are supposed to come fresh, and rainy 



" , , -? 

weather to begin and end, on the change of the 
moon. Potatoes planted in the light of the moon 
run to vine and make no tubers. Pork killed in 
the light of the moon runs to grease, shrinking 
in the pan. Soap must be made just in the right 
time of the moon. Roofs must also be put on 
with reference to this, or the nails will draw 
right out of the wood and let the shingles fall. 
Even a "fence-worm" if laid in the wrong time 
of the moon is a failure; with frost and thaw- 
ing the rails will surely sink into the ground. 

Arth Lowry has worked in town off and on 
for some years, and is, in Joe's opinion, plumb 
spoiled for a mountain man. "I'll swar to 
Joshua, Joe," he says, "you're as superstitious 
as some ol' woman that smokes a pipe and don't 
know the war's over ! If the moon knowed what 
all you-uns hold hit responsible fur hit'd git 
scared and fall down out o' the sky." 

"Them town people all claims the moon 

makes the water o' the sea to rise an' fall. I 

don't see why they say hit can't cause Ir'sh pota- 

ters to run to vine," says Joe, in an injured tone. 



"You may see for your own self when ye go 
through the woods that some logs lays on top 
o' the ground and others sinks in till they're 
might' near buried up. Them sunk ones is what 
fell in the dark o' the moon." 

But he and Arth do not disagree about certain 
weather signs their mother had taught them 
when they were "shirt-tail boys," signs about 
Groundhog Day, for example, and the Ruling 
Days, the twelve days from the twenty-fifth of 
December to Old Christmas, each of which rules 
the weather of a month of the coming year ; and 
how Friday is always either the fairest or the 
foulest day of the week; and how "there will be 
as many snows in the winter as there was fogs in 
August"; and about the equinoctial storm, and 
the "whippo'will storm," and the storm that 
wakes the frogs, and the cold spell when the 
dogwoods bloom, and "blackberry winter." 

They like to plant their garden truck on Good 
Friday, if possible, because of the Easter cold 
spell to follow, which would be likely to nip any- 
thing already out of the ground. They are sure 


that the first thunder wakes the snakes and liz- 
ards, and they know that February borrows four- 
teen days from March, to pay them back, in the 
same kind of weather, to April. Thus if the 
first two weeks of February are stormy the first 
fortnight of April will be the same. 

There are stories adrift in the Cumberlands 
of witch haunts, haunted houses and demoniac 
possessions, fearsome and strange beyond any 
I ever heard. But Aunt Neppie Ann's modicum 
of common sense does not allow her to repeat 
them readily. She much prefers to tell of the 
Wild Boy who lived with the bears in the Suck 
fifty years ago, or of what she saw during the 
war, or of the few Indians she remembers. She 
knows, or thinks she knows, that these things 
are true. But she is sometimes willing to tell a 
certain "witch story" of a phenomenon, accord- 
ing to several other witnesses, actually known 
"up the country" where she was raised. 

Perhaps every feature of this tale could be 
accounted for as we now account for the absurdi- 
ties of New England witchcraft, by such causes 


as suggestion, mutual hypnotism, unconscious 
cerebration. The one thing not accounting for 
itself in this way is the perfect consistency of old 
Nance's character. Aunt Neppie Ann is, of 
course, ignorant of all literary art. Yet George 
Eliot herself could hardly better the picture she 
draws of a meddlesome, garrulous, ill-tempered 
old shrew who knows she has got a mean ad- 
vantage over her betters and means to enjoy it 
to the full. Every incident, so simply related, 
carries new conviction. You can hear old 
Nance's harsh cackle of triumph, her ridicule 
after a successful coup directed against the 
preachers who would have overcome her by 
prayer, or the witch-doctors who would have de- 
stroyed her with silver bullets. 

Nance was an old woman, or the spirit of one, 
and she haunted not a house, but a family, the 
Beavers. Her reason for bedeviling Old Leath- 
erhead, as she called old man Beaver, was never 
really ascertained. Only for him, as a rule, did 
she set her malicious pits and snares, although 
sometimes she took an abrupt dislike to some 


visitor. So disagreeable was her nature that 
even those whom she called her friends would 
have gladly rid themselves of her presence had 
they been able. 

At first she visited the family destined to suf- 
fer most from her, unexpectedly and at long in- 
tervals, frightening them half out of their minds 
on every occasion. Then she came more and 
more frequently, till toward the close of Beaver's 
days she was in the house almost all the time. 
Often, harried beyond endurance by her devilish 
pranks, Beaver would importune her to give 
some reason for her malice toward him. 

"If I've ever done anything to wrong ye, 
Nance," he would say, calling her by the name 
she had given them, "I do wisht ye'd tell me 
of hit, and I'd try my best to make hit up 
to ye." 

But the reasons she gave were contradictory, 
and so trivial that they satisfied no one. "You- 
uns plowed up my bones oncet," she was some- 
times pleased to answer, or "You know you're 
the meanest man that ever broke the world's 


bread"; and then she would go off into a fit of 
screeching laughter or bitter railing, 

"The queerest of hit," according to Aunt Nep- 
pie Ann Lowry, "was that nobody ever seed a 
glimpsh of her. Bill Beaver claimed he dreamp' 
o' seem' her more times than a few, but nary hair 
o' her old head did anybody ever see with open 
eyes in all the years she was with 'em, though 
she set by 'em at the fire and done her best to 
make herself one o' the family. She talked 
might' near all the time, till she wore out their 
patience; she had a curi's voice, like a fly in a 
horn. But they never seed her. 

"And yit, though you'd say she didn't have 
no body substance herself, she could certainly 
interfere and meddle with things. She could 
run 'em all out o' the house any minute with the 
foulest smells you ever heard of. She could give 
sich a quare taste to a fat shoat, fresh baked, 
that even the dogs nosed over hit and wouldn't 
eat a bite. She tampered with everything on the 
place and hid whatever was little enough so hit 
mout be hard to find. She'd change the noon- 



mark in the door so'st Mis' Beaver wouldn't 
start to git dinner till way past the hour, and 
she'd throw ashes in the butter. Mis' Beaver 
hated her, if anything, a little wuss'n the old man 
did, bekase old Nance was always a tawmentin' 
the children. The next one to the baby was a 
real ugly-looking boy, red-headed, and ever' 
time he cried he spread his mouth all over his 
face. He had a mouth like a pore man's lease, 
anyhow, from year to year, and old Nance'd 
come down on him like a hen on a June-bug. 
Then Mis' Beaver had to make fair weather 
between 'em." 

"One time the baby cried and cried in the 
night, keepin' the house awake, and old Nance 
kep' after 'em to spank hit. She said finely, 'If 
you-uns won't, I will,' and she did, spanked hit 
good. And hit shore shet up, too. 

"Jist oncet in a long time hit come into her 
head to do somebody a good turn. Oncet when 
Sairy Beaver was taken down rael sick old Nance 
kep' the flies offen her a right smart while, and 
then she said: 'Sairy,' she said, 'look a-here, 


dawtie; I've got ye somethin' ye can eat.' And 
Sairy 'lowed that there was some ripe strawber- 
ries a-layin' out on the counterpin, and whur 
they come from she didn't know; nor likewise 
whur they went to, for she had no stomach to 
eat of 'em, and when she looked ag'in them ber- 
ries was gone. 

"And one time when the gals and their mother 
was argifyin' with a drunk man that had come 
in and aimed to stay, whether they wanted him 
or not, old man bein' away from home, old 
Nance she jist slapped him good and pulled him 
right out o' doors by the nose. 

"Hit was mighty seldom she taken sich a 
streak, though. Mainly she was jist a meddle- 
some, sharp-tongued ol' critter, sich as ye meet 
sometimes in the flesh, and took her delight in 
makin' trouble night and day. She turned all 
pore old man Beaver's own folks ag'in him with 
her talk. People all over the county knowed 
of her and her malicious ways, and talked with 
her from time to time. But might' near every- 
body got so they didn't go to Beaverses house 



much. If they had any business thar that they 
had got obleeged to tend to, they'd set out on 
the porch. 

u Only the preacher he stayed there oncet over- 
night, and Nance she pulled the kiwers often 
him, and he woke up nigh about froze. 

"What? Oh, yes, they tried time and again 
to git shut of her, time and again. Witch-doc- 
tors couldn't phase her, and as to movin', hit 
was a big ondertakin'. They hadn't nary foot 
o' ground but that one home place. She warn't 
bound to the spot, anyhow. She vowed and de- 
clared she aimed to follow Old Leatherhead to 
the eend o' the world, till she'd vexed the life 
out o' his body. So they couldn't have lost her 
by movin', I don't reckon. . . . And she broke 
up every pra'ar-mectin' they tried to hold ag'in 

" 'You old Sugarmouth !' she'd light right 
into the middle of a pra'ar, as apt as any way — 
'you Sugarmouth, how I do love to hear ye pray 
and norate and go on! Not half as sweet as 
you was a-talkin' to Malachi's widdcr a-Sunday 



—oh, I beared you-uns !' And everybody knowed 
that the preacher had sure 'nough been to 
Malachi's widder's house a-Sunday evening, to 
drive home a strayed heifer o' hern, he said. 
Then, 'You shet up hollerin' Amen, Noay,' 
she'd commence. 'How many hogs have you 
changed the mark on since you was at church 
last?' And, 'Taylor, I see you a-holdin' Sa'- 
Jane's hand. You wouldn't do that if Long Jim 
was here.' And so she'd carry on, making every- 
thing out jist nigh enough to the truth till hit 
couldn't be denied, yit tellin' it considerable 
worse'n what hit raelly was, and hittin' every 
feller in his weakest place, till hit look like as if 
the day of judgment was at hand and the se- 
crets of all hearts revealed. There was a feller 
she'd called a cymblin'-headed fool that tried to 
act big-Ike and sass her back; sez 'e: 'Callin' 
your brother a fool is resky, Nance, even when 
ye do tell the truth.' But she started in a-tellin' 
somethin' nuther on him that he'd done forgot 
about years ago, and ag'in she got through he 
was more'n ready to hold his peace. 



"She kep' that up till she run 'em all out, and 
they heared her, as they went down the road, 
cussin', whistlin', singin' — makin' fun of 'em for 
everything she could think of and screechin' like 
a pond full o' geese. 

"Sometimes she'd go a-visitin' over-night to 
see the oldest Beaver gal, that had married and 
moved to Arkansas. She'd say to 'em in the 
evening, 'I'm a-gwine to leave you-uns alone to- 
night — for she always liked to make out that 
they couldn't git along without her. 'I'm 
a-gwine to Rose-Ann's,' she'd say; and they'd git 
one night's rest. Then in the morning she'd be 
back, tellin' 'em the news. They do tell me 
that a ixpress train can't go to Arkansas and 
back in that len'th o' time; yit, howsomever, 
Rose-Ann's cow had the hollow-horn, or her 
baby cut a tooth, or whatever. And when they 
wrote to Rose-Ann's folks to find out if hit was 
so hit turned out to be jist as Nance had told. 

"She got meaner and meaner to pore Beaver 
as he got older, until hit looked like she would 
a-let up on him if she had any human mercy in 


her. For he got ashamed and quare, and didn't 
want to see his own neighbors that had knowed 
him sence he was a little bit o' boy. He'd set 
by his own ha'th and cry, and say, 'Why'n't ye 
kill me, Nance, whatever ye air, and have done ?' 
'I will,' she'd tell him. 'I will, don't ye fret; 
I'm a-gwine to.' 'Well, then,' sez 'e, 'they can 
put hit on my gravestone that the wicked have 
ceasted from troublin'.' 

"And sure 'nough, about a month atter he 
said them words they found him layin' dead in 
his bed, peaceful and quiet. Some of his folks 
always 'lowed that old Nance had killed him 
with witchcraft." 

"Do you think so, Aunt Neppie Ann?"I ask. 

"I do' know. She may have, one way or an- 
other, if 'twas only by worryin' him to death." 

But it seems difficult to associate the high 
tragedy of murder with the spirit of a ridiculous 
old crone, a spirit simply too familiar for ordi- 
nary comfort. 

It is usual for the mountaineers, and, indeed, 



most other men, to deny a belief in the super- 
natural. But, speaking for my own people, I 
am sure that almost every one has had some ex- 
perience he can not explain away. Perhaps he 
has heard a warning of some one's death, a 
strange noise, a shriek on the roof. Perhaps a 
man has passed him in the open road and disap- 
peared suddenly, leaving no tracks. Perhaps 
he has been carried in a trance to strange regions 
or to a great height above the earth. My peo- 
ple, like the Hindoos and the Scotch Highland- 
ers, have the faculty of dealing with the occult, 
of seeing and hearing that which is withheld 
from more highly educated minds. Always there 
is some souvenir of the spirit-world in a nook 
of the mountaineer's brain. He is unwilling to 
accept it, never believes quite all that it seems to 
imply. Still, there it is. 




"This world and one more, and then the fire- 

THERE is preaching every third Sunday 
in the month at the King's Creek log 
church. Saturday afternoons one sees Brother 
Absalom Darney's pony amble down the woods- 
road, its rider's white hair and beard in the 
wind; one divines the small Bible and brass- 
rimmed spectacles handkerchief-swathed, and 
the clean shirt and change of socks in his deer- 
skin saddle-bags; then one tells the neighbors 
that "no providential hinderance" has prevented 
the preacher's meeting his appointment, and next 
morning everybody turns out to go to church. 
On the first Sunday it is the same at Filmore's 



Cove; on the second, at a settlement in Se- 
quatchie; and the fourth is claimed by a for- 
saken little "shack" church away back in the 
Cumberland range. This is Brother Absalom's 
regular circuit. 

Whether any of the other charges pay him 
more than King's Creek I do not know. King's 
Creek has been known to give him as much as 
a dollar and forty cents on one Sunday; the en- 
tire amount comes to perhaps six or eight dol- 
lars in the course of a year. Brother Ab does 
not think of depending on his ministry for his 
daily bread; that is earned by the sweat of his 
brow, for he has a farm and a family as large as 
those of the average member of his congrega- 
tion. His preaching is given freely to the Lord 
and His people, and neither he nor any other 
mountain preacher is willing deliberately to take 
up a collection for his own benefit; what comes 
to him is also given freely — slipped into his hand 
at the close of the service, a handful of dimes 
and pennies, by whomsoever feels inclined. 

Brother Ab's method of preaching is impres- 







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^""^ '4^* 

1 -A- . -u 



sively simple. There is little sensationalism 
about it, and still less of artifice. You hear no 
cant in the mountains about respect due to the 
cloth; our preacher is never called a clergyman 
or a divine; even the term "pastor and flock" 
savors of patronage which would indicate a false 
relation; Brother So-and-So, preacher of the gos- 
pel, is title enough. He is not of a class set 
apart from life, from the labors, sins and sor- 
rows of his world, nor does he pander to any 
class distinction. He is as incapable of kowtow- 
ing to the highest as of condescension to the 
meanest. Whatever his inconsistencies, what- 
ever his ignorance, whatever the narrowness of 
his outlook on Scripture and theology — and these 
failings are sure to be many, for no amount of 
education ever quite rids the mountaineer of bull- 
headed contrariness — he is certain to be, first of 
all, sincere, a man among men, fearlessly ex- 
pounding the gospel as he knows it. 

The popular opinion about Brother Absalom 
seems to be that, while he is of little value in 
raising revivals, he offers nothing but strong 



Scriptural meat without false doctrine. I can 
well believe that he presents no false doctrine, 
for, so far as I have heard, he tries to steer clear 
of doctrinal subjects altogether — close commu- 
nion, the apostolic succession, free will, original 
sin, and all the ether questions over which the 
mountain people are so fond of splitting hairs. 
The time of "taking up church" is uncertain. 
After a sufficient congregation has assembled, 
according to the preacher's judgment, he and 
some of the members raise a hymn, 
which serves instead of a bell to concentrate the 
gathering. They sing without books, for these 
hymns have never been printed: "They'll pray 
for me," "We have mothers up in heaven," 
"Father's gone to glory," and a hundred like 
them. As other voices take up the strain (it is 
not etiquette to join in until the recognized lead- 
ers have sung the first stanza) the people gossip- 
ing outside begin to take their seats, whole fami- 
lies clambering out of hay-bedded wagons, the 
women folk clucking decorously all the way to 
the door and stopping every five steps to settle 


the plumage of their broods; old fellows, half- 
hunter, half farmer, choosing a place on the left, 
well forward; young wives and maids, modest 
without primness, sweet without coquetry; lean 
boys with a promise of strong beauty in their 
faces, sliding in warily and never venturing far 
from the open door; and a host of perfectly 
grave children of all ages. Some of the men 
are careful to place themselves near a window 
(for of late four little square-paned windows 
have been added to the old log house, which 
seems from the road to wear an expression of 
astonishment in consequence), so as to keep an 
eye on their horses hitched in the woods outside. 
But Brother Absalom, who himself has ridden 
a rather freakish pony, displays no concern for 
any but the work in hand. After the singing he 
rises in his place behind the square desk of 
shelves that serves for pulpit, combing his grand 
beard with his fingers, and thoughtfully, weight- 
ily, reads a chapter. Then he asks the congre- 
gation to kneel with him in prayer, with a slight 
emphasis that destroys the conventionality of the 


phrase and brings as many as possible actually 
to their knees ; for he makes a point of teaching 
simplicity and humility in all his churches. 

Another hymn is sung, maybe two or three — 
droned through, a disciple of Moody and San- 
key would say, although these people really sing 
for sheer enjoyment — and then Brother Absa- 
lom announces his text. The last sermon I heard 
him preach had for its subject "Prayer." He be- 
gan: "There are two thoughts in this text. One 
is that God is always to be reached by prayer." 
And he plunged abruptly into his sermon, which 
from beginning to end was a mere stringing to- 
gether of tales abridged from the very words of 
the Book. The prayer of David, the prayer of 
Daniel, the prayer of the Pharisee and the pub- 
lican, the prayer in Gethsemane — he recounted 
them all, and several others, quite simply, com- 
mencing each story with "We are told," and 
often ending with a sort of moral in his own 
words, addressed pointedly to some one near 
him: "That, Brother Jim, is the kind of prayer 
that God Almighty loves to hear." 



This informality, this direct simplicity, is the 
strength of Brother Absalom's sermons. At first 
the babies fretted with the heat; some refused to 
be comforted, and had to be carried into the 
open air; a young mother grew more and more 
embarrassed over her efforts to quiet the deli- 
cate-looking little whimperer in her arms, and 
presently the preacher interrupted himself to 
say: "Don't let yourselves get troubled about 
them little folks makin' a noise ! I'm well used to 
that; hit don't disturb me none, and won't dis- 
turb nobody else that really wants to listen at the 
gospel." He added some remarks about the 
child having the best right in the house of God 
that were really beautiful and touching, and dis- 
missed the subject by saying that they would all 
go to sleep in a short time. And they did. I 
must say that the strained, slightly nasal pitch 
of a mountain preacher's voice, and its cadence, 
rather like an energetic chant, is well calculated 
to put any one to sleep; there is more than a 
little mesmerism about it. 

Returning to his text, our preacher said that 


the second part of it had to do with vows and 
obligations, and explained what he understood 
to be the nature of a vow. Here again followed 
a disconnected series of anecdotes: Jepthah's 
vow and Jonah's, with the simpler morals to be 
derived from each. Like other mountain preach- 
ers, he speaks readily on his feet without prepa- 
ration, scarcely once opening a book of which 
he can repeat whole pages by heart. He told, 
too, the story of Zaccheus, making much of his 
promise to ''restore fourfold, " and I think that 
was all. 

He ended with an appeal to the sinners to 
come forward and be prayed for. Six or eight 
responded, some half hypnotized, others bat- 
tling, manfully and visibly, with self-conscious- 
ness; they gave the preacher their hands, while 
the congregation sang: 

"I will arise and go to Jesus, 

He will embrace me in His arms; 
In the arms of my dear Saviour, 

Oh, there are ten thousand charms." 



After prayer, in which all the leading men of 
the church joined—all praying at once at the top 
of their voices, or at least ejaculating u Lord 
grant it" from time to time — the "right hand 
of Christian fellowship" was called for. The 
ceremony is frankly a general hand-shaking and 
a hearty song; it promotes good feeling, and sig- 
nifies little else. "Let all who hope to meet me 
in the Promised Land give me their hands." 

"Oh, fathers, will you meet me, 
Say, fathers, will you meet me, 
Say, fathers, will you meet me, 
On Canaan's happy shore?" 

"By the grace of God I'll meet you, 
By the grace of God I'll meet you, 
By the grace of God I'll meet you, 
On Canaan's happy shore." 

The next verse is precisely the same, except that 

it is addressed to the "mothers" instead of 

"fathers"; the third verse is to "brothers"; the 



rest of the succession runs to sisters, Christians, 
neighbors, mourners, and finally preachers. 
Many of the hymns are constructed on this plan 
— perhaps only to save trouble in composition, 
although it is certain that repetition has its ef- 
fect on these excited, outwearied brains. The 
preacher's voice strikes through the words of the 
song with encouraging shouts of goodwill; the 
singers throng and press about him on the floor, 
grasping hands right and left — for it is a fact 
that under the religious spell even the inveterate 
shyness of the young people vanishes like a dry 
leaf in flames. Tears are running down seamed 
and withered faces now, as the repression and 
loneliness of many months find relief; the tune 
changes again, and yet again — they do not tire 
of this. 

"I hope to meet the fathers there, 

I hope to meet the fathers there, 

I hope to meet the fathers there, 

And play on the golden harps. 

I hope to meet the mothers there- 



Broken ties restored, old pain of lonely nights 
to be no more — that is the dearest promise of 
this religion; the aching of old grief is suddenly 
caught up and whirled away in this aroused hope 
of glory. 

"By-and-by we'll go and see them, 
By-and-by we'll go and see them, 
By-and-by we'll go and see them, 

On the other bright shore. 
That bright day may be to-morrow, 
That bright day may be to-morrow " 

Did ever Israel captive peer into the future 
any more wistfully than these ? 

"Glory to God, my soul's happy!" It is a 
woman's scream that rings high over all. Sev- 
eral break into sobbing ; the woman throws her- 
self down with her head and arms across a 
bench. One touches her in friendly fashion; the 
rest sing on : 

"Hit's the old-time religion, 
Hit's the old-time religion, 


Hit's the old-time religion, 

And hit's good enough for me, 
Good enough for me ; 

Hit was good for our fathers, 
And hit's good enough for me." 

At last the wave of emotion spends itself; the 
handshaking is over. A few more songs and 
they are ready to go home, after Brother Absa- 
lom's benediction. 

Now, here is religious teaching of no literary 
quality whatever; sermons by an ignorant man, 
a man who probably does not regard a high de- 
gree of education as a desirable or even a right 
thing. It is generally denied that good can come 
of such teaching. The blind cannot lead the 
blind, and from the outsider's point of view the 
ways of these people are ludicrous in the ex- 
treme. But that is if one does not understand. 

Aside from religious precept, from the moral 

tone of the teaching — aside, too, from example, 

if one admits that all this veneration for things 

held sacred, no matter what, has its effect on the 



young and the uncontrolled — aside from these 
things, which are more or less to be taken for 
granted, there is yet to be considered a feature 
not usually thought of. I mean the break in the 
loneliness of their lives, the meeting for once 
on a footing which is both decorous and friendly, 
of those who at almost any other time are iso- 
lated even more by peculiarity of temperament 
than by the distance between their homes. What 
going to church really means to a woman who 
during the rest of the month sees hardly a face 
outside her family is difficult to realize — a 
woman, say, like that poor widow Electa Fet- 
ridge. She is known to subsist, with her chil- 
dren, on white beans, hoecake and scant portions 
of bulk pork from week's end to week's end, and 
has no more mental endowment than is necessary 
to enable her to mourn for a husband who drank 
himself to death some years ago. Yet amid the 
competition for the preacher's society that arose 
immediately after the benediction Brother Dar- 
ney made answer to the husband of more than 
one excellent cook: "No. thank you, brother; 



I'd like the best in the world to see you and your 
folks, but I've done promised to go home with 
Sister 'Lectar Fetridge." 

This was only an ordinary day-meeting, when 
men's thoughts must necessarily be distracted by 
their own affairs — their horses, their dinners 
waiting at home. Far more exciting is a revival, 
"a big meetin'," held night after night as long 
as the interest continues; far more picturesque 
the "brush meetings," held in some charming 
nook of the woods ; far more beautiful the bap- 
tizings. Nothing I have ever seen in the ritual 
of any religion has seemed to me more lovely 
and impressive than the ceremonies of baptism 
and foot-washing as here conducted. Baptism 
could hardly have been simpler as taught by the 
early Apostles themselves. The place is a clear 
pool fringed with ferns; at its up-creek end a 
little fall flashes over a gray ledge of rock, 
breaking the silence of deep woods with its clear, 
sudden clamor. Here, once or twice in a twelve- 
month — usually at the close of a revival, or, as 
we say, "when big meetin' breaks" — the new 


converts are baptized. All their kin come with 
them for encouragement, and such of the coun- 
tryside as are not kin come for the spectacle. 
The season is not considered, nor the state of 
one's health ; I have known persons in very feeble 
condition to be dipped into these cold spring-fed 
streams without sustaining the least injury, and 
it is nothing uncommon for women and children 
to be baptized through the ice. They say no one 
is ever made ill by the performance of a re- 
ligious duty ; certainly there is a plenty of violent 
exercise connected with this one. Most of the 
converts are shouting by the time they gain the 
bank, and nearly run amuck in the crowd before 
they can be persuaded to retire to a hastily 
erected brush shelter and change to dry clothing. 
No attempt is ever made to check the excite- 
ment, although its excess has been known to re- 
sult in insanity and even death, for whoso dies 
shouting happy is held to have met a fortunate 
end. I hesitate to say much of this, for there 
is a tendency among certain classes of city people 
to make a jest of these peculiarities, to which we 


of the mountains are becoming more sensitive 
year by year. It ought not to be so— God knows 
what the old ceremonies mean to those who take 
part in them ; but such is the persecution in some 
places where the curiosity of the town is press- 
ing close in on us that even after a congregation 
has met together to hold a foot-washing, if any 
city people are present who are not well known 
and trusted, the occasion will be quietly turned 
into an ordinary preaching. It requires consid- 
erable courage in men, and especially in women, 
to go through with this primitive ceremony in 
the face of unsympathetic onlookers. 

One afternoon a group of "natives" in the 
blacksmith shop were contentedly chewing to- 
bacco and swapping remarks at long intervals. 
Unexpectedly a stripling of the summer people 
broke into the trickle of talk with: "Oh, say, is 
there going to be any shouting next Sunday? 
'Cause our crowd is going up if there is." 

For a minute it seemed the others had not 
heard — certainly one would never have sus- 
pected their hatred of that boy. Then one 



drawled, easily: "I don't know; there wasn't 
any give out at meetin' last Sunday." And they 
all chewed on like so many oxen. 

It takes a brave man, for that matter, to be- 
lieve what the mountaineer believes, let alone to 
uphold it in the face of ridicule. Is it always 
courage — or is it sometimes contrariness? One 
cannot be sure. A "doctrinal sermon" is cer- 
tain to arouse bitter dissension in any church; 
yet the people are fond of such, and exult openly 
in their excellent powers of disputation. 

The shortest and hottest debate I ever wit- 
nessed was one that took place just outside the 
church door between a fledgling preacher and 
the oldest woman of the neighborhood. The 
young fellow had just delivered a sermon on the 
apostolic succession, declaring that no one could 
possibly be saved without baptism at the hands 
of a preacher of his own particular denomina- 
tion; he had even named his mother — with re- 
spect and with deep regret, it is true, but still 
he mentioned her — as one he believed to be 
among the eternally lost on account of this fail- 



ure to comply with Scriptural injunction. Out- 
side the door, after meeting, an old woman faced 
him, trembling with indignation. 

"Lishy," she shrilled at him, unheeding the 
crowd, "Lishy Robbins, I held you in my arms 
before you was three hours old, and I cert'ny 
never 'lowed to see you stand up in a church and 
preach as you've been a-preachin' this day ! Lishy 
Robbins, me and your mother was girls together; 
I knowed her all her life, and when she died no- 
body grieved for her any more than I did. There 
never was a better woman or a better Christian 
in any church, and if she hain't in heaven to- 
day " The old voice broke; she gathered 

herself together and went close to the lad. 
"Lishy Robbins, you ought to be slapped over 
for preachin' any such foolishness about your 
mother, and I'm a-gwine to do it!" 

And forthwith she did. Her toil-hardened 
old fist shot out so unexpectedly that the young 
preacher went down like a cornstalk. Angry? 
Of course he was angry, but she was a grand- 
mother of the mountains. There was nothing 



for it but to pick himself up with as much dignity 
as remained to him; and now that after-years 
of experience have somewhat mellowed his head- 
strong humors, he is wont to tell that good story 
on himself as heartily as if he had ceased to be- 
lieve in the apostolic succession. 

But we never let go of a belief once fixed in 
our minds. A sort of home missionary of cul- 
ture once spent two hours explaining the motions 
of the earth to the King's Creek men, with the 
aid of a good globe and a lantern to represent 
the sun. They hearkened to him gravely, with 
the most respectful attention, being won by his 
evident sincerity and goodwill; but the "four 
corners of the earth" and Joshua's command to 
the sun and moon were in their minds all the 
time, I am sure. Not one was budged a hair's- 
breadth from his original opinion. 

Nothing would be easier than to show, by 
quoting the language of sermons, experience 
meetings and "talk meetings," exactly what the 
mountaineer thinks is his religion; but this lan- 
guage is so much a matter of rote that it is 


widely misleading. The thing a man honestly 
supposes himself to believe — that is to say, the 
creed he subscribes to, the religion he carries to 
church with him — and the things he does uncon- 
sciously believe and rely upon, heart and soul, 
are apt to be two different matters in any case. 
And it is especially so with folks so little given 
to retrospection that they can hardly discover 
what are their own inmost thoughts, much less 
give them expression. 

In a settlement in our mountains one may find 
Missionary Baptists, Hardshell Baptists, Cum- 
berlands, Calvinists, and what not; but at the 
bottom they are very much the same. Argu- 
ments frequently arise and become bitter over 
questions of immersion, close communion, origi- 
nal sin and the like; but the principles that con- 
trol their daily habit of mind, the beliefs that 
are the mainsprings of thought and action, do 
not differ nearly so much between man and man 
as the propounders of doctrines would have us 
suppose. One mountaineer may believe that ne- 
groes are descended from some animal resem- 



bling a monkey; his neighbor may "see by the 
Scripture" that it is not only improper for a 
woman to speak in church, but that she must 
under no circumstances remove her sunbonnet 
during religious service; another's favorite 
crotchet may be his conviction that the earth is 
supported floating on an infinite expanse of 
water; while yet a fourth declares "once in grace 
always in grace," and will argue the subject all 
day Sunday. Each one produces abundance of 
Scripture texts to fortify his position, and over 
these matters they constantly disagree; yet, al- 
though no amount of talking will make them 
admit it, their attitude toward the supernatural 
world is really the same. 

To talk of these first principles rather than 
of creeds is a harder and far more important 
task; whether a man "believes in" ghosts or no 
is a small matter, and whether he practice foot- 
washing or no is a still lesser thing. But whether 
he looks into his world and sees there a law and 
order beyond human power, and whether he 
lends himself to the order or sets himself against 


it — this is surely the mightiest import of his 

Courage seems to me the keynote of our whole 
system of religious thought. The fatalism of 
this free folk is unlike anything of the Far East; 
dark and mystical though it be through much 
brooding over the problem of evil, it is lighted 
with flashes of the spirit of the Vikings. A man 
born and bred in a vast wild land nearly always 
becomes a fatalist. He learns to see Nature not 
as a thing of fields and brooks, friendly to man 
and docile beneath his hand, but as a world of 
depths and heights and distances illimitable, of 
which he is but a tiny part. He feels himself 
carried in the sweep of forces too vast for com- 
prehension, forces variously at war, out of which 
are the issues of life and death, but in which the 
Order, the Right, must certainly prevail. This 
is the beginning of his faith as he had it from 
his fathers ; from hence is his courage and his in- 
dependence. Inevitably he comes to feel, with a 
sort of proud humility, that he has no part or 
lot in the control of the universe save as he allies 


himself, by prayer and obedience, with the Order 
that rules. 

Hence this is to him the whole value of 
prayer: his wrestlings with the spirit are all 
undertaken with a view to placing himself in 
the right attitude; his prayers are almost never 
mere requests to be granted; he will not cheapen 
his religion to a scheme for getting what he 
wants. The conversion of a near friend or a rela- 
tive is often prayed for especially, and sometimes 
the recovery of one sick unto death, "if it be Thy 
will" ; but one of my people would never think 
of praying, for instance, for rain. I have known 
a starving widow to pray for bread, and once an 
old herb doctor to pray for light on a case of 
hemorrhage he didn't understand; the widow 
bestirred herself to seek, and was, of course, fed 
by her neighbors, while the doctor claims to have 
received a special revelation anent the applica- 
tion of red clay, and the result gave doctor and 
patient much satisfaction. But, with a few ex- 
ceptions of this sort, it is not customary to pray 
for temporal benefits at all. 



Implicit faith in every word contained in the 
Bible, whether it were uttered by the prophets, 
added by King James' translators or inserted as 
explanatory by the compiler of the Concordance, 
is too pathetic to be amusing. A lad arrested 
last year for voting under age put forward as 
his defense, in all good faith, the fact that the 
date of his birth, which showed him twenty-one, 
though he was proved to be younger, had been 
scrawled on the flyleaf of his Testament ever 
since he could remember. He knew it was so, 
he declared, because his Bible told him so. It 
was impossible that an error should exist be- 
tween its revered covers. 

There is no telling what conclusions one of 
our mountain people may draw from a given 
portion of Scripture. His religion is really the 
outgrowth of his own nature and environment 
rather than of the written Word — although he 
would, of course, indignantly deny that such is 
the case. He believes that he reads the Book 
and conducts himself according to its tenets to 
the best of his abilitv: but be is most of the time 



reading himself into the Bible. And many are 
those of far superior intelligence who read in 
the same way as unconsciously as the mountain- 
eer. "You can't foretell nothing in this world 
certainly," said a hard-headed man to a valley 
preacher who was arguing certain prophecies of 
his own. "Didn't Christ refuse to give them 
Pharisees a sign? Didn't He tell 'em, 'Ye say 
when ye see the sky red at morning,' and so on? 
— I fergit the words, but He never even told 'em 
a red sunrise meant rain; He told 'em, *Ye say' 
thus and so. He knozved the weather does just 
as hit pleases!" 

What is to be will be. So consistently do they 
hold to this that they hardly permit themselves 
the habit of casual wishing; an almost passionate 
pride of independence prevents their yielding to 
vain longings, far enough, at least, to give them 
voice. "I desire an interest in all your pra'ars, 
and hope I may hold out faithful to the end," 
and "I want to get a home in heaven," are favor- 
ite formulas for the closing of these intensely 
earnest, mystical "experiences" recounted at 



meeting; but I have suspected that they would 
as lief add "Yours truly," if it were as cus- 
tomary a phrase. Certainly these are almost the 
only wishes one ever hears expressed. 

Such is our religion in the mountains; a re- 
ligion in which the narrowest creeds and the 
broadest hearty human fellowship are oddly at 
variance; a religion stripped of artificiality at the 
cost of parting with its conventions of beauty 
and grace. The mountaineer will have none of 
the thousand and one adjuncts of modern forms 
of worship lest they obscure his vision of vital 
truth; the light of the Spirit, he believes, should 
shine as sunlight does, its primordial life-giving 
splendor undimmed by arts of stained glass and 
embroidery. It is for this reason that he chooses 
one of the more primitive denominations — 
Methodist, Baptist, Campbellite, Cumberland — 
and abides by its dogmas to the end of his days. 
Man to man, simply and forcibly, our preachers 
must and will speak, "converting" by personal 
influence as naturally as healers employ the hu- 
man touch. If he makes himself ridiculous, as 


might often seem to more sophisticated view; 
if he forbids his congregation the use of instru- 
mental music or the wearing of jewelry; if he 
cries down all graces of refinement — one must 
bear in mind that it is because of a real passion 
for simplicity; it is not the mere blundering 
crudeness of a boor. 

[145] 1 



IT is generally believed that America has no 
folk-music, nothing distinctively native out 
of which a national school of advanced compo- 
sition may arise. The commercial spirit of the 
age and our conventional mode of existence have 
so far effaced original types of character and 
romantic phases of life that the folk-song seems 
already a thing of the past. 

Dvorak and a few other composers have in- 
deed made use of negro themes, and the aborigi- 
nal Indian music has been seriously treated more 
than once. But these compositions, however ex- 
cellent, are no expression of American life and 
character. They fall as strangely on our ears 
as any foreign product. 

But here, among the mountains of Kentucky, 


Tennessee and the Carolinas, is a people of 
whose inner nature and its musical expression 
almost nothing has been said. The music of the 
Southern mountaineer is not only peculiar, but, 
like himself, peculiarly American. 

Nearly all mountaineers are singers. Their 
untrained voices are of good timbre, the women's 
being sweet and high and tremulous, and their 
sense of pitch and tone and rhythm remarkably 
true. The fiddler and the banjo-player are well 
treated and beloved among them, like the min- 
strels of feudal days. 

The mountain fiddler rarely cuddles his in- 
strument under his chin. He sets it against the 
middle of his chest, and grasping his bow near 
the middle wields it with a jiggling movement 
quite unlike the long sweep of the accomplished 
violinist's bow-arm. One might complain that 
their playing is too rapid and jerky. But all the 
dance-tunes, at least, are composed for this 
tempo, and no other would be found suitable. 

The music, while usually minor, is not of a 
plaintive tendency. There are few laments, no 



sobbing and wailing. In this it differs radically 
from that of savage peoples. Neither has it any 
martial throb and clang. It is reflective, medi- 
tative; the tunes chuckle, not merrily, but in 
amused contemplation. 

The mountaineer is fond of turning the joke 
on himself. He makes fun of his own poverty, 
his own shiftlessness, his ignorance, his hard 
luck and his crimes. 

I'll tune up my fid - die and 

ros - in my bow, And make my - self 



wel - come wher - ev - er 


I'll buy my own whiskey and make my own stew ; 
If it does make me drunk it is nothing to you. 

I'll eat when I'm hungry and drink when I'm 

If a tree don't fall on me, I'll live till I die. 



I went up on the mountain, once, And 

give my horn a blow, And ev -' ry gal in the 

val - ley Come a - run - ning to the do'. 

There's some that like the fat of the meat, 

And some that like the lean, 
But they that have no cake to bake 

Can keep their kitchen clean. 

As I went down to my old field I heard a mighty 

maulin' ; 
The seed-ticks was a-splittin' rails, the chiggers 

was a-haulin'. 

Once touched by religious emotion, however, 
the mountaineer seems to lose his sense of the 
ridiculous entirely. The deeps of his nature are 
reached at last. The metaphors of Scripture, 
the natural expression of the Oriental mind, are 


taken with a literalness and seriousness against 
which one cannot help thinking a touch of humor 
might be a saving grace. 

Hit's the old Ship of Zion, as she comes, 
Hit's the old Ship of Zion, as she comes, 
Hit's the old Ship of Zion, the old Ship of Zion, 
Hit's the old Ship of Zion as she comes. 

She'll be loaded with bright angels when she 
comes, etc. 

I see her flag a-wavin' as she comes, etc. 

Oh, brothers, what will you do when she comes, 

We will flee to the rocks and the mountains, etc. 

Repetition carried to the point of wearisome- 
ness is a favorite form of revival hymns. It 
seems to be a necessary feature, similar to the 
monotonous beating of the West Indians' bam- 
boula that incites their savage minds to frenzy. 


Some have fathers up in glory, 
Some have fathers up in glory, 
Some have fathers up in glory, 

On the other bright shore. 

A ndante. 

When this world's at 


Some bright day we'll go and see them, 

Some bright day we'll go and see them, 

Some bright day we'll go and see them, 

On the other bright shore. 

That bright day may be to-morrow, etc. 
Some have mothers up in glory, etc. 



Oh, just let me in the kingdom, 
Oh, just let me in the kingdom, 
Oh, just let me in the kingdom, 

When this world's at an end. 


A ndante. 

zte - — ,-r-T^ d== 

Rain, oh, rain, mighty Sav 



Rain con - vert - ing pow - er down, 




:r|— =t=q: 



Rain, might -y Lord. The way the ho - ly 





proph - ets went, 

Rain, might - y 

Sav - iour, The road that leads from 

I ^- 

ban - ish - ment, Rain, might - y Lord. 



Here a feeling for the supernatural sets in. 
The oddly changing keys, the endings that leave 
the ear in expectation of something to follow, 
the quavers and falsettos, become in recurrence 
a haunting hint of the spirit-world; neither be- 
neficent nor maleficent, neither devil nor angel, 
but something — something not to be understood, 
yet to be certainly apprehended. It is to the 
singer as if he stood within a sorcerer's circle, 
crowded upon by an invisible throng. 

Shout, shout, we're gaining ground, 

O halle-hallelujah; 
The power of God is a-comin' down — ■ 

O glory hallelu'. 

I do believe beyond a doubt, 

O halle-hallelujah; 
The Christian has a right to shout — 

O glory hallelu'. 

It is their one emotional outlet. Having no 
theatre, no bull-fight, no arena, no sensational 
feature of any kind in their lives, they must, 



being a high-strung race, find vent some other 

They rock to and fro, softly crooning and 
moaning through song and prayer, until the im- 
pulse comes upon them to leap into the air and 
scream and shout until exhausted. It is com- 
mon for women and even strong men to injure 
themselves unawares ; or, at baptizings, to pitch 
headlong into the water. I have seen convul- 
sions and even temporary insanity brought on 
by these excesses. It is partly the music that 
induces this mental state. But these songs can- 
not be fairly judged sung out of their natural 
setting of brushwood camp or half-lighted log 
church, and reinforced by the vibrant, hurried 
voices of exhortcrs and the high strained sing- 
song of the preacher who has reached what is 
v known as his "weavin' way." I confess that the 
wild fascination of a mountain revival has a 
strange power over me. The scene and the 
music draw me with a charm that I do not un- 

Such a religion has little to do with the moral 



law. I am far from wishing to imply that they 
regard no principles of right and wrong, or that 
their own peculiar code of morals is not rigidly 
adhered to by the majority; of this T have spoken 
elsewhere in this book. But, like most primitive 
peoples, they are prone to hold brute courage 
the first of the virtues, and the hero of their bal- 
lad is too often the criminal. The bold robber 
stands to their minds as the buccaneers and ma- 
rooners of the Spanish Main stood to seven- 
teenth-century England. He is the Man Who 
Dared, that is all, and if he be overtaken by jus- 
tice, their sympathies, of course, follow him all 
the more. 

Last night as I lay sleeping I dreamt a pleasant 

dream : 
I dreamt I was down in Moscow, 'way down by 

Pearly stream ; 
The prettiest girl beside me had come to go my 

I woke up, broken-hearted, in Knoxville county 




In come my jailer, about nine o'clock, 

A bunch of keys was in his hand, my cell-door 

to unlock, 
Saying, "Cheer you up, my prisoner, for I heard 

some voices say 
You're bound to hear your sentence some time 


In come my mother, about ten o'clock, 

Saying, u Oh, my lovin' Johnny, what sentence 

have you got?" 
"The jury's found me guilty, and the judge, 

a-standin' by, 
Has sent me down to Knoxville, to lock me up 

to die." 


My d£ddy was a gambler, 

He learned me how to play; 
He told me I should always stand 

On the ace-jack-deucc-and-trey. 

My mammy used to talk to me 
Of things I hadn't seen ; 



Said she, "My boy, you'll be in the workhouse 
Before you are sixteen." 

I knew she was a-talkin', 

But I thought she was in fun, 
But I had to wear the ball and chain 

Before I was twenty-one. 

I'll play cards with any white man, 

And I'll play with him fair; 
I'll play the hat right off his head, 

And I'll play him for his hair. 

I've gambled away my pocketbook, 

I've gambled away my comb, 
I've gambled away all the money I had 

And now I will go home. 

There are simple dance tunes, with a rollick- 
ing banjo accompaniment, such as "Citico," 
"Shady Grove" and "Muskrat," to which a 
shuffling step is measured, the couples dancing 
in an "eight-handed set." 




A llegrc. 

5C ^ 


Btt=|=E==EFI ^-r^-|— t 



1 -l 

* a > * * 1 » 1 


Musk - rat, oh, musk - rat, what 

makes your head so red? I went bareheaded 

3 *— ^==t=t 

all my life, And the sun did burn my 


-&- — -S- — W- * -*- 

head, head, And the sun did burn my head. 

Romantic love as a motif is almost altogether 
absent throughout the mountaineer's music. It is 
a subject of which he is very shy. His passion is 



not a thing to be proclaimed from the housetops, 
Once married, his affection is a beautiful thing, 
faithful to whatever end. But he does not sing 
of it. 

The young men and maidens have, however, 
something that stands to them instead of love 
songs — almost, one suspects, instead of wooing. 
These are the "kissing games," half dance, half 
romping child-play. They are next of kin to the 
old May-pole dance, real playing at love — 
games in which much choosing of partners takes 
place, and many kisses are taken openly, in 
wholesome lightness of heart, as part of the 
game. These are such games as the children 
of more civilized societies play. But the chil- 
dren of the log church school rarely organize 
their frolics into games. Their sport is scarcely 
more elaborate than the romping of colts in a 
pasture, or the imitative pranks of monkeys. 
They are half-grown lads and girls who sing 
these songs, and tall bachelors are not in the least 
ashamed of joining in with whole-hearted aban- 



Hit's over the river to feed my sheep, 
Hit's over the river, Charley; 
Hit's over the river to feed my sheep, 
And see my lonesome darling. 

You stole my partner, to my dislike, 
You stole my partner, to my dislike, 
You stole my partner, to my dislike, 
And also my dear darling. 

I'll have her back before daylight, 
(And so forth.) 

The following is a game of marriage, with a 
ceremony of joining hands: 

All around the ring so straight, 
Go choose the one to be your mate. 

After the choosing a shout of derision goes 

Law, law, law, what a choice you've made I 
Better in the grave you had a-been laid. 


But after all, when the ceremony is completed, 
they are ready to dance round the happy pair : 

Kiss the bride, and kiss her sweet ; 
Now you rise upon your feet. 

Another contains a description of a burlesque 
paradise : 

Where coffee grows on white-oak trees, 

The river runs with brandy, 
The boys are made of lumps of gold, 

And the girls are sweet as candy. 

"Weevily Wheat" is very old and very popu- 
lar. It is more like a dance than a game: 

law, mother, my toes are sore, 
Tra la la la la la la ; 

Dancing on your sandy floor, 

Tra la la la la la ; 
Your weevily wheat isn't fit to eat, 

And neither is your barley ; 

1 won't have none of your weevily wheat 

To make a cake for Charley. 


Charley he is a handsome lad, 

Charley he is a dandy; 
Charley he is the very one 

That sold his hat for brandy. 
Your weevily wheat isn't fit to eat, 

And neither is your barley; 
We'll have some flour in half an hour 

To make a cake for Charley. 

It is not improbable that the "Charley" of 
these songs is the Prince Charlie of Jacobite 
ballads. "Over the River, Charley," may or 
may not be an echo of "Over the Waters to 
Charlie," for a large proportion of the moun- 
tain people are descended from Scotch High- 
landers who left their homes on account of the 
persecutions which harassed them during Prince 
Charlie's time and began life anew in the wilder- 
ness of the Alleghenies. 

Be that as it may, the mountain people do sing 
many ballads of old England and Scotland. 
Their taste in music has no doubt been guided 
by these, which have come down from their 



ancestors, Indeed, so closely do they keep to 
the musical tradition of the ballad form that 
it is often difficult to distinguish the old from 
their own more modern compositions, especially 
as some have been recast, words, names of locali- 
ties and obsolete or unfamiliar phrases having 
been changed to fit their comprehension — Ches- 
ter town being substituted for London town, and 
the like. It should delight the heart of the stu- 
dent of English to compare the following in- 
stance with "The Clerk's Twa Sons of Owsen- 

rd" and 'The Wife of Usher's Well" : 


It was a la - die bright; Each 

child she had was three; She sent them off to a 



— £Sr 
Northern State, For to learn their gram - a - rie. 



They had been gone but a little time- — 
Two months, perhaps, or three — 

Till sickness spread all over that land 
And swept her babes away. 

She prayed if there was a King in heaven 

Who chose to wear a crown, 
That He would send them home that night, 

Or in the morning soon. 

'Twas twelve long months, about Christmas 

The night being cold and long, 
The three little ones came running home 

And into their mother's arms. 

She set a table before them soon, 

On it spread bread and wine. 
"Now, come along, my little babes, 

Come, eat and drink of mine." 
"I may not eat of your bread, mother, 

Nor drink none of your wine." 

She fixed a bed in the back room side, 
On it spread a clean sheet, 


And over the top spread a golden skirt, 
For to make a sweeter sleep. 

"Awake, awake," said the eldest one, 

"Now soon the cock will crow ; 
I see our Saviour smiling down, 

And to Him we must go. 

"Cold clods of clay lie over our heads, 

Green grass grows at our feet; 
You've shed tears enough for me, mother, 

For to wet a winding-sheet." 

Some of the best instrumental music is of a 
descriptive nature, reflecting vividly the inci- 
dents of every-day life. Peculiar fingerings of 
the strings, close harmonies, curious snaps and 
slides and twangs, and the accurate observations 
of an ear attuned to all the sounds of nature 
enter into the composition of these. In the 
"Cackling Hen" the cackle, hard, high and 
cheerfully prosaic, is very well rendered, as may 
be easily seen : » 




A llegro. 


"Big Jim" is a dance tune in which the major 
melody drops suddenly into a running repetition 
of two or three minor notes, beautifully like the 
drumming of rain on a cabin roof. 

In "The Fox Chase" the baying of the 
hounds, from the eager start of the pack as they 
take up the trail to the last lingering yelp after 
the quarry is treed, is given by the banjo accom- 
paniment. The spoken "patter" runs along ir- 
respective of rhythm, interpolated regularly with 
the hunting cry. It is almost impossible to re- 


duce the effect to musical notation. The empha- 
sis is all on the hounds' deep note; and the 
thumb-string, while almost imperceptible to the 
ear, still plays an important part in producing 
the rhythm. It begins with a regular movement 
which grows more and more rapid and exciting 


Andante. poco a poco. ace el. 

f * !* K 


N K K K 
r -fl «L d. d. d 

Effi=3=5l=*:=^B* ??-* -fi =*r- 


K N K 

c -a * — .£, j d m 1 d m 1 d rf 1 _ 




j i^i^3-=^^ £=il 



as it progresses. Then, as the fox is treed, the 
close comes, suddenly, with the baying of "Old 

Boys, blow up the dogs and let's have a fox- 
chase. Get the horn and give her a toot. Call 
up the dogs and we'll go down on the creek. 
Whoopee! Go it, Lead! 

Come on, boys, and let's go down on the point 
of the ridge and hear this fox-chase. They will 
fetch him out on the other side. Whoopee! Go 
it, Lead ! Come on, old dog ! Whoopee! 

Just listen at those dogs run that fox ! Listen, 
boys ! I believe they have run him down in the 
gulf; we can just hear them down in there. 
Whoopee! Go it, Lead! 

Just listen at 'em, boys! They have started 
him out of the creek. Whoopee! Come on, old 

Come, boys, let's go round on the point of the 


ridge and hear that race. Whoopee! Just listen 
at Old Sounder ! 

Boys, they are bringing him out on the ridge. 
Just hear old Lead — Bow ! bow ! wow ! wow ! 

Come on, boys ; you will miss the best part of 
the race. Whoopee! Hold 'em down, Rocks ! 

Boys, I can't stay here any longer — I've got 
to go to those dogs. I believe I hear old Lead 
at that old tree — bow, wow, wow ! Let's go to 
them — they are treed on Round Knob. 
Whoopee! Coming to you, old dogs ! 

As I write these songs old memories come 
drifting on their melody — memories of drowsy 
noons and the tankle-tump-a-tankle of the banjo 
on the porch, and the thump-chug, thump-chug 
of the batten as the mother's shuttle went pa- 
tiently to and fro; of yodels ringing down the 
gulch; of spinning-wheel songs — old Scotch bal- 
lads blurred together with the crescendo and 


diminuendo of the whirling spokes; of the 
crooning u By-ee . . . By-ee . . ." that lulls 
little children to sleep ; of the laugh and leap of 
dancers bounding through Cripple Creek at the 
bidding of a man told off to call the figures; of 
red firelight flickering over an impromptu play- 
party, neighbor lads and girls singing and romp- 
ing through all the evolutions of those intricate 
games of courtship in which the couples are 
never finally mated, saluting and pirouetting and 
following and flouting; of wilder nights at "big 
meetinY' when, an awed and fascinated child, I 
clung to the wall or clambered on the puncheon 
benches to be out of harm's way; of the ripple 
of water and the drone of bees . . . 

Had I but words to say how these tunes are 
bound with the life of the singer, knit with his 
earliest sense-impressions, and therefore dearer 
than any other music could ever be — impossible 
to forget as the sound of his mother's voice ! 

Crude with a tang of the Indian wilderness, 
strong with the strength of the mountains, yet, in 
v way, mellowed with the flavor of Chaucer's 


time — surely this is folk-song of a high order. 
May it not one day give birth to a music that 
shall take a high place among the world's great 
schools of expression? 




AS with our music, so with our literature. It 
is surprising that there should remain, so 
near, comparatively, to centers of civilization, a 
people with a literature of their own as yet un- 
touched by student or story-writer. I do not 
refer to studies in the dialect by authors such as 
John Fox and Miss Murfree, but the composi- 
tions of the mountaineers themselves, in song 
and proverb and story, made for no other public 
than their own circle. Of course, it is all purely 
oral, for very few of the mountain people can 
read and write. But it is literature, for all that. 

A word first as to the vernacular. 

Among all the varieties of English spoken in 
this polyglot country, whose every separate State 
has set its mark on the mother-tongue, there is, 


I believe, not one which possesses a true literary 
value, unless it be the speech of the mountain- 
eers. This, while perhaps not equal to the Scotch 
as used by Burns in the composition of some of 
his most touching poems, is yet a genuine dialect, 
to be distinguished from mere barbarism and 
corruption. Most native tongues now spoken 
in the United States are either forms corrupted 
from standard English or bastard forms arising 
from a mixture with some other language, as 
French-English, Mexican-English, negro-Eng- 
lish. There are numerous instances of pure ob- 
solete usage in the famous New England dialect. 
But it does not compare in this respect with that 
of the mountains, many of whose word-forms 
are historic, and only to be found, in literature, 
in works antedating the close of the sixteenth 

This dialect is, of course, sprinkled thickly 
with corruptions. There is probably no author- 
ity whatever for "you-uns,"and examples might 
be multiplied indefinitely to show the degrada- 
tion of English in the mouth of the mountaineer. 


But, even so, there is enough excellent Saxon and 
Gaelic left to prove the right of the dialect to 
a place of honor. Homely as it is, one gains 
here an idea of the old unpolluted language of 
the English people as Macaulay loved it, "rich 
in its own proper wealth, little improved by all 
that it has borrowed" since Chaucer's day: sim- 
ple, sincere, full of the energy of forcible Saxon 
words; unexcelled in clearness, spirit and 
strength. I think that I personally obtain a pe- 
culiar pleasure from the reading of old authors 
not granted to many, from so familiar knowl- 
edge of the old form in which they wrote. I am 
enabled to read more as their own contemporary 
public may have read them. 

When my neighbor hails me, as I ride by his 
door, with an invitation to "light and hitch," I 
am reminded of the boy's exclamation in Julius 
Caesar, as he watches the horsemen on the plain : 

"Now some light. O, he lights, too." 

When Gran'ma sends over to borrow a "race 



o' brimstone" it recalls a passage in Twelfth 
Night about "a race or two of ginger," Not 
even the dictionary explains, as Gran'ma might, 
that a race is a little stick, a bar. And the "boo- 
gar" that scares the baby, is he not next of kin 
to the Irish pooka, as well as to bogey and 
spook? You meet him in Spenser, and also in 
a certain old version of the Bible which says, 
"Thou shalt not be afeared of any bugges by 

There seems to me a taste of staleness and 
tameness in the speech of civilized people. Of 
course, I am not thinking of the master who uses 
the language as a fine instrument, evoking har- 
monies of word and thought. The ordinary in- 
tercourse of men in city and country is a lan- 
guage sapped, by conventional habit and usage, 
of its most vital qualities. 

There is a certain wild and elemental poetry 
in the speech of the mountaineer, the "bow- 
arrow tang" that Thoreau loved. He is never 
quite commonplace, for all his uncouth exterior. 
There is a rude instinct — not even barbaric, but 



drawn straight from the fountains of the nature 
about him, to flow, dark but living, through his 
own, that, though ever so crude and sour and 
embryonic a thing, mixing itself with ludicrous 
awkwardness more often than not, yet some- 
times finds the right word unerringly. He says 
exactly what he means to say, and says it pun- 
gently. When he refers to the population of a 
particular cove or bend as an "acorn-fed tribe," 
does not the epithet paint you a picture of starve- 
lings herded together, grubbing a scant mouth- 
ful now and again out of the woods, sniffing 
suspicion at your approach, ever on the alert to 
nab something and run? When he speaks of 
some perverse spirit as being perpetually "muley- 
hawed," has he not expressed the extreme of 
contrariness ? 

Terse and piquant proverbs abound in the 
everyday talk of mountain homes. If a man, 
in an attempt to put on too much Sunday style, 
comes to church carrying an umbrella, he is cer- 
tain to be laughed at for u trying to hide the 
devil's leather from God's sun." If you do not 

[i 7 6] 


wish to accept an invitation to a meal, it is quite 
in order to answer, "No, thanks, I've jest drunk 
at the branch." If a boy boast that he has made 
something or some one run, it is sure to be sug- 
gested that he was "working in the lead." A 
sycophant is "anybody's dog that'll much him." 

Here is a group of sayings all having refer- 
ence to tale-bearing : 

"There never was a hill so high but every old 
cow that went up it still carried her tail." 

"A dog that will bring a bone will take one." 

"In this district you can hear anything but 
ham a-fryin'." 

Concerning poverty : 

"A short horse is soon curried." 

"When I get ready to move I jist shut the 
door and call the dogs and start." 

"My land's so pore hit wouldn't raise a fight." 

"Pore folks has a pore way, and rich folks has 
a mean one." 

It has happened more than once in the history 
of the world that a collection of just such prov- 
erbs has formed the beginning of a literature. 


And if songs and tales and rhymes that have 
never been rendered into letters can be said to 
be literature, we surely have one of our own, how- 
ever crude it may be. There are no great poems 
in it, no passionate outpourings except those of 
religious feeling. The outlook is never higher 
than that of the genial and homely philosopher. 
But, while it rises to no grand heights, it is yet 
thoroughly healthful in tone; it meanders 
through all the sunny valleys of the mind, and 
has too keen a sense of the ridiculous ever to fall 
into a slough of despond. 

Here is a tale, to begin with : 

"Thar was a old widder-man with six chil- 
dern lived in Jim county, and he married a Se- 
quatchie widder that had six childern, too; and 
then they had six more. One day the whole pas- 
sel of 'em got to fightin', and the old woman 
poked her head out o' the door and hollered to 
her man, 'Come hyer with a hick'ry, quick; your 
childern's a-whuppin' my childern, and they're 
all about to tromple the life out of our chil- 
dern P" 



That is "a chestnut" — that is to say, a bit of 
standard fiction. There are hundreds of thes*. 
When a braggart begins to make too much of his 
prowess with a rifle, some one is likely to cap 
his tale with the long extravaganza about the 
Fortunate Hunter, whose Munchausen adven- 
tures end by his shooting a deer with a peach 
seed, and finding it afterwards grown into a 
tree on the deer's back, a burlesque that has no 
particular excuse for being outside of the moun- 
taineer's innate enjoyment of absurd situations. 
A large book might be compiled of discon- 
nected quatrains and couplets that are fitted now 
into this song and now into that, as the singer 
pleases. A good collection of these stray frag- 
ments would, it seems to me, be worth the while 
of many a scholar. I shall have space here for 
but a few : 


Old Sam Simonses young Sam Simons is 

Old Sam Simonses son; 
And young Sam Simons will be old Sam Simons 

When old Sam Simons is hung. 


If I had a scolding wife, 

Sure as you are born, 
I'd take her down to Market Street 

And trade her off for corn. 
For smoke in the house and a scolding wife 
Leads a man a terrible life. 


There was an old man who had a wooden leg; 
He hadn't no tobacco and he didn't want to beg; 
He's got no tobacco for to chaw, chaw, chaw, 
He's got no tobacco for to chaw ! 


I asked that oral to be my wife, 

And what do you reckon she said? 

She said she wouldn't marry me 
If all the boys was dead ! 

Longer compositions are usually cast some- 
what in the old ballad form. I select one: 

[i so] 


When I was a rovin' soldier, 

I roved from town to town, 
And wherever I saw a table set, 

There freely T sat down. 

I hadn't been in Newark 

More than two days or three, 

Till I fell in love with a pretty little gal 
And she in love with me. 

She took me into her best room, 

She's given me a fan, 
She's whispered low in her mother's ear, 

"I love the soldier man. 

"I'll bundle up my calico, 

All ready for to go, 
And roam this country over, 

Wherever he may go. 

"And when you see us comin' back, 
You'll wring your hands for joy, 


And one will say to another, 
'Yonder comes the soldier boy, 

" 'With his pockets lined with greenbacks, 
His musket in his hand; 
Hit's a long, long life and a full success 
To the Rovin' Soldier man.' " 

These four songs are typical: 


I went upon the mountain to see what I could 


Lollee tru-dum tru-dum tru-dum lollee day; 

I thought I heared my mother a-talkin' to my 


Lollee tru-dum tru-dum tru-dum lollee day. 

"I will not wash your dishes, I will not milk your 
Lollee tru-dum tru-dum tru-dum lollee day; 


For I'm a-gwine to marry — the fit has took me 
Lollee tru-dum," etc. 

"Go 'long and wash your dishes, and stop your 

clatterin' tongue; 
Talk about your marryin' ! you're seven years 

too young. 
"I'd like for you to tell me where you could git 

a man 1" 
"Oh, now, mammy, here is handsome Sam!" 



Hi-yi-oh, for old Dan Tucker! 
He's too late to come to his supper; 
Supper's over and breakfast's a-cookin', 
And old Dan Tucker's a-standin' a-lookin'. 

Old Dan Tucker's a bad old man; 
He whupped his wife with a fryin' pan; 
He combed his head on the wagon-wheel, 
And died with the toothache in his heel. 



Old Dan Tucker he oncet got drunk, 
Fell in the fire and kicked out a chunk; 
Fire hit flew all in his shoe, 
And away went old Dan Tucker, too. 



Goin' up Cripple Creek, goin' in a run, 
Coin' up Cripple Creek to have a little fun; 
I roll my breeches to my knees, 
And wade old Cripple Creek when I please. 
Goin' up Cripple Creek, layin' in the shade, 
Waitin* for the money that the old man made. 



("The old sow measled, and she died last 

What ye gwine to do with the old sow's hide ? 

What ye gwine to do with the old sow's hide? 
Make the best sr.ddle that you ever did ride, 
M-hm ! 


What ye gwine to do with the old sow's feet? 

M-hm ! 
What ye gwine to do with the old sow's feet? 
Make the best souce that you ever did eat, 


What ye gwine to do when the meat gives out? 

What ye gwine to do when the meat gives out ? 
Set thar in the corner with your mouth stuck out, 

M-hm ! 

There is a good song about a young man who 
is seeking a wife. One girl promises to accept 
him if his corn crop is all that it should be, 
but — 

"She went to the fence and she peep-ed in; 
The grass and the weeds was up to her chin. 
Said, 'A rake and a hoe and a fan-tail plow 
Would do you better than a wife just now.' " 

These two love-songs are the only ones of na- 



tive composition that I have ever heard. They 
are simple and tender as an old Scotch ballad : 


I've been gatherin' flowers in the meadow 

To wreathe around your head, 
But so long you have kept me a-wakin*, 

They're all withered and dead. 

I've been gatherin' flowers on the hillside 

To bind them on your brow, 
But so long you have kept me a-waitin', 

The flowers are faded now. 


O many a mile with you I've wandered, 
And many an hour with you I've spent, 

Till I thought your heart was mine forever, 
But now I know hit was only lent. 

Now I will seek some distant river, 

And there I'll spend my days and years; 

I'll eat no food but the green willow, 
And drink no water but my tears. 


There are some good ballads about the Civil 
War, and even a few that date back to the Revo- 
lution. But the real nuggets, to my thinking, 
are to be found among the children's rhymes. 
The list of these is inexhaustible, and even with 
Stevenson and J. Whitcomb Riley and Mother 
Goose to choose from, they are favorites in the 
log church school. 

I had a little rooster, and he crowed for day; 
'Long come a fox and carried him away. 

I had a little dog, and he was so true, 
He showed me the place where the pigs went 

I had a little sow, and fed her on slop, 
And when we killed her we all had sop. 


Chicken pic, made of rye : 
A 'possum was the meat; 

Rough enough, and tough enough, 
But more'n we all can eat 



'Possum up a gum stump, 

Cooney in the holler; 
Little boy, you shake 'em out, 

I'll give you half a dollar. 

'Possum up a gum stump, 

Cooney in the holler, 
And a little gal at pappy's house 

As fat as she can waller. 

Our version of the Five Little Pigs — baby's 
toes, of course — is really superior to that found 
in Mother Goose since it tells a story, while the 
Mother Goose version does not : 

This little pig says, "Let's steal some wheat." 
This little pig says, "Where'll ye git it at?" 
This little pig says, "In master's barn." 
This little pig says, "I'll run and tell." 
This little pig says, "Quee, quee, quee, can't get 
over the door-sill !" 


Inasmuch as it contains the American spirit, 
humorous and honest, this literature of a humble 
folk may contribute toward the formation of 
that national literature which the American peo- 
ple are seeking. Let no one who would wel- 
come an expression truly national despise the 
quaint lore of the Southern mountaineers. We 
have had no Robert Burns as yet; but I expect 

[i8 9 ] 



"What is to be will be, and that that ain't to be 
might happen." 

MY people, everywhere on the borders of 
the mountain country, are being laid 
hold of and swept away by the oncoming tide of 
civilization, that drowns as many as it uplifts. 
And in this way : 

One day a hotel is built, a summer settlement 
begun, in some fastness of the mountains hith- 
erto secluded from the outer world. The pure 
air, the mineral waters, are advertised abroad, 
and the summer people begin to come in. Good 
roads are built in place of the old creek-beds and 
trails, and rubber-tired carriages whirl past the 
plodding oxen and mule teams. Handsome cot- 
tages are erected in contrast to the cabins, and 
sunbonnets turn aside in wonder at bright crea- 
tions of roses and chiffon. The mountain people 


come in groups to look on, some from homes so 
deep in the woods that the children take fright 
at the approach of even a home-made "tar- 
grinder" wagon. They are easily bewildered, 
of course, and cannot at once respond to the 
need of a new standard of values. Perhaps in- 
stead of a hotel it is a factory or a mill of some 
kind that presents the thin edge of the wedge, 
but the results are as certain to follow. 

When the cottages are occupied the trouble 
begins. The hotel may bring its own servants; 
but for the summer people there are washing 
and sewing to be done by the women, and work 
in gardens and stables by the men of the place. 
Later, they are hired as house servants, and as 
caretakers during the winter season, when the 
houses must stand empty. All this is hardly to 
be avoided, perhaps, but a host of evils follow. 
Here is an easy way of making money, and the 
old pursuits are abandoned. Men neglect their 
farms and the fashioning of sturdy home-made 
implements and utensils. It is easier, far, to buy 
city tools with city money. Their teams are con- 



stantly in demand for hauling, moving house- 
holds up in the spring and down in the fall. 
They have never worked so hard before, nor 
been so well paid. The strenuous life has laid 
hold of them. It seems for a time that better 
days have dawned for the half-starved and the 
ignorant among us. 

Is it any wonder that false ambitions creep in ? 
The lady of the hotel or cottage, when she packs 
her trunks to go home, leaves sundry trinkets 
out for the mountain girl who has served her — 
half-worn clothing such as the poor child has 
never seen before, trimmed hats, books and mag- 
azines, if she can read. The recipient plans for 
a similar donation next year. She does not will- 
ingly return to sunbonnet and homespun. Her 
old mother cares little for the new clothes, but 
sees at once how much easier it is to buy blankets 
than to spin and weave. So the loom and wheel 
are consigned to the barn loft, where they fall 
to pieces with dry-rot, and the woman forgets 
her coverlet patterns. The hand of the worker 
in wood and metal loses its cunning. The grow- 


ing lads scarcely learn to shoe a horse; they are 
all too busy working for the city people. 

The value of money, the false importance of 
riches, is evident to their minds before the need 
of education. They become avaricious, they who 
were wont to share their last chew of tobacco, 
and put the children to earning, by picking ber- 
ries or what not, instead of sending them to 
school. For by this time the city people have 
helped to build a schoolhouse in the district. The 
old-time hospitality is crowded out of existence, 
and under the influence of women, who imagine 
that a man who does not know when to take off 
his hat cannot possibly be courteous, the fine old 
manners disappear. The old music is sup- 
planted by cheap Sunday-school song-books, that 
contain shaped notes and directions so clear that 
the wayfaring man who has learned to sing on 
the do-re-mi-fa-sol basis, though he knows not 
one key from another, need not err therein. The 
homespuns, with their delightful dull colors of 
root and bark, are ousted by aniline-dyed cali- 
coes which do not wear more than a season. The 


beauty of simple smoke-browned interiors is 
blotted out with newspapers pasted, coat upon 
coat, on the walls for additional warmth, since 
paper is easier come by than substantial chink- 
ing. Drugged barrel-house liquor takes the place 
of the clear, fiery product of the still, making 
the evil of drunkenness ten times worse. The 
old dances are given over to rowdies. A new 
standard of morals is set up amid the confusion. 
Even the old religion is passing, laughed away 
by empty-headed ones who never could under- 
stand a thing so sacred. This people who have 
no servant class are constantly made to feel 
themselves inferior to the newcomers, and so 
fall into servility. The old dignity has slipped 
from them before they are aware, and they grasp 
but vainly after that alien possession, an educa- 
tion, which they are told would establish them 
in the new. 

At last some, more thoughtful than the rest, 

awake to the fact that they are growing old in 

a service which provider no pension, growing 

old without the support of the well-tended acres 



that were their forefathers' mainstay. Too late 
the mountaineer realizes that he has sold his 
birthright for a mess of pottage. He has be- 
come a day laborer, with nothing better in store, 
and can give his sons no heritage but the pros- 
pect of working by the day. If he is wise he 
counsels them against entering on the treadmill 
of one-dollar-a-day that has used up his best 
years' strength. But some follow the line of 
least resistance unheeding, and many more are 
handicapped from the start by their elders' mis- 
take, so that only a few are able to take advan- 
tage of the new environment far enough to ob- 
tain an education or learn a trade. 

"Have we not built roads for a people too 
lazy to build for themselves?" say the city peo- 
ple. "Have we not served them in many ways? 
Are not church, school and newspaper a true 
benefit, a light in their ignorance?" 

In short, haven't we paid them well? 

They do not understand that the semblance 
of prosperity is only a temporary illusion that 
vanishes with the departure of the summer peo- 


pie. With the first frost a change is felt, and 
the new conditions are found to be anything but 
a blessing. If the old-time mountaineer never 
knew the taste of ice-cream in summer, he was, 
on the other hand, never without corn-pones and 
side-meat in cold weather. If his "old woman" 
never had a hat trimmed with silk, she had 
homespun petticoats and stockings instead. 
There are now no more hog-killings on the old 
scale that tilled the smokehouses to overflowing 
every fall. The wives and mothers have no such 
quilts and blankets as they used to keep folded 
away. They have been too busy making money 
all summer to prepare against the breath of the 
north. Now the money is gone who-knows- 
where, and if the summer people could see these 
poor folk huddled round their fires in cheap store 
calicoes which have to be renewed every two or 
three months — see them buying meal by the half- 
peck to eat with the invariable white gravy, they 
would not think the pay so well proportioned to 
the sacrifice, after all. 

Some there are who refuse to be drawn into 



the whirlpool. One such lad cried to his brother, 
who was hired for the season to a city man: 
"Jim, I wouldn't take the talk that fellow gives 
you for double your wages, for anything." 

"You'll have to learn to take a good many 
things, if you want to make any money/' an- 
swered the brother ; but he spoke with a shamed 
face, for he still smarted from a quarrel with 
his employer. 

"Right thar ye deny your raisin', Jim," said 
the boy, sadly. "You've went so long without 
seein' money that you're plumb mesmerized if 
anybody shakes a dollar bill in front of ye !" 

May the day be far distant when the Log 
Church neighborhood shall be overtaken by this 
fate! I have heard it said that civilization, 
when it touches the people of the backwoods, 
acts as a useful precipitant in thus sending the 
dregs to the bottom. As a matter of fact, it is 
only the shrewder and more determined, not the 
truly fit, that survive in this struggle. Among 
these very submerged ones, reduced to depend- 
ence on an alien people, there are thousands who 
[ J 97] 


inherit the skill of their forefathers who fash- 
ioned their own locks, musical instruments and 
guns. And these very women who are breaking 
health and spirit over a thankless tub of suds 
ought surely to turn their talents to better ac- 
count, ought to be designing and weaving cover- 
lets and Roman-striped rugs, or "piecing" the 
quilt patterns now so popular. 

Need these razors be used to cut grindstones ? 
Must this free folk who are in many ways the 
truest Americans of America be brought under 
the yoke of caste division, to the degradation of 
all their finer qualities, merely for lack of the 
right work to do? 

Let it be made clear that here is no question 
of "elevating the masses" in the ordinary sense 
of the term. That task awaits the world every- 
where. In the mountains the need is for devel- 
opment not foreign to our natures, cultivation 
of talents already in blossom. Let us be given 
work that will make us better mountaineers, in- 
stead of turning us into poor imitation city peo- 

[i 9 s] 


In my desire that the mountaineers shall be 
developed along the line of their peculiar talents 
I am not alone. Over and again experiment has 
proved that wherever it is possible for them to 
live by their own handiwork they are as self- 
respecting, honest and enterprising a people as 
any that America can boast. And even while 
educating themselves and their children, at a 
cost of effort and sacrifice that makes their un- 
selfishness deserve the name of heroism, they will 
yet preserve the old simplicity, the old customs, 
and even the dialect among themselves. Several 
such settlements have been established already, 
where the industries encouraged are those crafts 
in which the mountaineers excel — weaving, 
woodwork, basket-making and quilting; where 
there is no talk of master and servant, and the 
old type is preserved. May one and another 
take up the thread until it shall be woven into 
the rich fabric of national life and thought. 

I make the statement more as a hope than as 
a prophecy, but I feel sure of my ground in say- 
ing that these North American Highlanders will 


yet become a grand race ; a race that shall stand 
for freedom political and industrial; a race that 
can no more endure unjust rule than it can thrive 
in the tainted air of the low country. Types 
come and pass in nature's scheme of economy, 
but not until their usefulness is ended. The 
mountaineers are a young people, not ready to 
pass away; their strength lies dormant, await- 
ing its hour. To the mountains, in time to come, 
we may look for great men, thinkers as well as 
workers, leaders of religious and poetic thought, 
and statesmen above all. So much passionate 
loyalty cannot be lost to the Government, must 
find expression in redeemers of practical politics 
as well as in military service. From the moun- 
tains will yet arise a quickening of American 
ideals and American life. 

But before such renaissance the mountaineers 
must awaken to consciousness of themselves as 
a people. For although throughout the high- 
lands of Kentucky, Tennessee and the Carolinas 
our nature is one, our hopes, our loves, our daily 
life the same, we are yet a people asleep, a race 


without knowledge of its own existence. This 
condition is due, as I have tried to show in the 
chapter called "Neighbors," to the isolation that 
separates the mountaineer from all the world but 
his own blood and kin, and to the consequent 
utter simplicity of social relations. When they 
shall have established a unity of thought corre- 
sponding to their homogeneity of character, then 
their love of country will assume a practical 
form, and then, indeed, America, with all her 
peoples, can boast no stronger sons than these 
same mountaineers. 

Looking upon the fresh, sweet young faces of 
the children of the Log Church school, I often 
wonder which of them is destined to carry forth 
the word to his people for a Gathering of the 
Clans, not to war, but to work — work that shall 
uplift instead of degrading; work that shall 
make the influence of the mountaineers a pecu- 
liar and beneficent force in their beloved country 
and in the world of men. 


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